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2014: The Year of Living Dangerously Online.

Nov 25, 2014

Sourced from Norton Internet Security (2014 Internet Security Threat Report, Volume 19)

Vicious new malware tactics require more vigilance than ever.

As you’ve probably heard, 2013 was the year of the mega breach. Cybercriminals unleashed the most damaging series of cyberattacks in history with tens of millions of data records being stolen.* Now, more than ever, you’ve got to be careful online as we face new attacks that are more vicious than ever.

To help keep you safe, we’ve listed some widespread attacks from the past year so you’ll recognize what to look for and avoid them, along with some proactive steps you can take now to better secure your computer.

• Cryptolocker:Ransomware is a new tech variation of age-old crime. Victims often see this extortion play out in the form of pop-ups or emails that relay the dire message like, “Pay up or you’ll never see your computer files again!” It’s a scheme that has likely earned the crooks tens of millions of dollars.

Here’s what to do: Don’t open executable files in your email. Even if they appear safe, delete them. Cryptolocker usually strikes through email with malware in attached zip files. Tough, up-to-date malware security is a must. Often, these are social engineered to appear as if your friends sent them or you’re helping some cause. You aren’t. You’ll only be helping crooks grow richer.

• Gameover Zeus: Also known as “Zbot,” this Trojan horse malware has infected millions of people worldwide since 2011. It’s also often delivered through email, usually as an unexpected invoice. The idea is that you’ll receive an attached bill and immediately open it, wondering what it is. In this case, it’s malware that be used for gaining access to your bank account.

Here’s what to do: Get a suspicious email with an attachment? Delete it. Many of these scams require you to take some form of action and invite the proverbial vampire into your home. Think before acting. If aren’t expected an attachment, it’s highly likely it’s malware. Should you find yourself infected, you can download a removal tool here.

• Tinder Spam: This malware derives its name from Tinder, a popular mobile app used for online matchmaking—and that makes an attractive target for cybercriminals. Its users started receiving spam that enticed victims into providing their credit card numbers. This same scam has now evolved into fake adult profiles.

Here’s what to do: Again, think before acting. As we’ve noted, the success of many cybercriminal tactics depends upon victims taking action, usually immediately. If something seems suspicious, there’s probably a good reason. Delete away and don’t look back.

• Dragonfly: Also known as “Energetic Bear,” this group of cybercriminals rely on reaching out through email with disguised malware (noticing something in common here?) and disrupt—or even take down—energy companies. This is far beyond bilking a few gullible people and shows just how vicious some of these new attacks can be.

Here’s what to do: You aren’t likely to be directly targeted by this group, but you could feel their malware effects. Remain vigilant in your online security, knowing that cybercriminals are now trying new forms of malware that are more hostile and less obvious.

Don’t let your guard down. As a rule, use strong passwords and change them every three months. And trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right online, it probably isn’t.

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