As a result of the popularity of mobile devices, cyber criminals are authoring apps featuring holiday shopping bargains that appear to be legitimate.
The truth is, these applications, which are usually free to download, will install themselves onto your device and attempt to modify or steal your private data.
Beware of Rogue Apps
While we know identity theft is a problem throughout the year, fraud-prevention experts are warning holiday shoppers that this season is primetime for cyber criminals.
During the holiday season, mobile device users tend to conduct more banking transactions online due to their busy schedules, and the fact that banks are closed more days than during other months of the year.
On top of that, a majority of users are unaware of how important mobile device security is, and they’ll just assume that these apps are safe for downloading. When you combine that laid-back mindset with the increasing ease of mobile app development, it only increases the threat of malicious software. These people are under the impression that because an app has been published to an app store, it is automatically safe to use.
What users may not realize is that many ‘rogue’ apps exist that will covertly steal private information from the mobile devices they are installed on. Security research estimates that more than 1 million Android apps containing malicious code currently exist, with new ones being created regularly.
Imagine all the private data that may exist on your personal mobile device- contacts, photos, stored passwords, and more- all of which fraudsters are after.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from becoming a victim of a fraudulent app it to do your research. Be cautious when looking to install a new app, particularly free ones; review the comments other users have left to indicate whether the software is legitimate. If more than a couple people have stated the app has done something strange to their device, you should think twice about installing it yourself.
Mobile Web Browsing Safety
Smartphone based shopping and web browsing is often done while using public WiFi networks- at places like malls, coffee shops, and airports. These connections are usually wide open and insecure, which can lead to sensitive information like credit card numbers being intercepted by nearby criminals. Always make sure you are connected to a site using an encrypted HTTPS connection when conducting financial transactions on your smartphone or tablet.
Watch out for suspicious or odd-looking websites, as identity thieves can create fake sites with eye-catching graphics and too good to be true low prices on popular items. If you take the bait, not only will you not get the merchandise you ordered, but the cyber criminals will have your credit card details and other personal information you may have entered during the fake transaction.
You might expect to receive e-cards during the holidays, but your friends and family aren’t the only ones sending out greetings. Identity thieves use social media sites to send e-card greetings that appear to be from people you know, but actually contain malicious links to sites loaded with malware or viruses. To protect yourself, don’t click any links in the message, or download any attachments unless you are sure you know the message came from an email address you recognize.
Additional Cyber Security Tips
- If you use mobile banking, sign up for SMS text message or email alerts to notify you of transactions posting to your account.
- If asked for your username and password when clicking a link on a site, try using a fake password on the first attempt. The few seconds it takes the page to reload confirms the site is looking for your valid login information- most scam sites let you through regardless of what you entered in, storing your login info for criminals.
- While you cannot totally prevent identity theft, you can reduce the risk if you know some of the ways high-tech criminals target people.