Love in the Time of Cybersecurity

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Valentine’s Day, the quintessential celebration of romantic love, is one of those fun holidays that most everyone enjoys. Unfortunately, that includes cyber criminals too who are just waiting to take advantage of Valentine’s Day-related online activity to steal more than just your heart.

'Be mine’ or beware?

That special someone in your life, for instance, might not be the only one asking you to ‘be mine’ on Valentine’s Day.  If previous Valentine’s Days are any indication, scammers are preparing for the big day this year with their own brand of ‘love’ particularly when it comes to a type of Internet dating scam called catfishing. Catfishing is when a malicious actor uses a fictional online persona, usually on online dating sites, to build a fake relationship with someone who subscribes to the site. Ultimately, over the course of the short online romance, the scammer makes a request for money… and then another request, and then another request, and well you get the idea. The average take for these types of scams is a very unromantic $10,000. So the next time someone asks you to ‘be mine’, beware first.

‘Gone phishing’…to spoofed websites

Phishing attacks are also prevalent on Valentine’s Day. These attacks often come as emails warning their targets that the gift or flowers they ordered couldn’t be delivered because of a problem with their credit cards. The emails direct the unsuspecting users to a spoofed website where they’re told to re-enter their credit card details so the delivery can be completed. Spoofed websites are actually counterfeits of legitimate websites and are intentionally created to mislead readers into thinking the website is legitimate so they’ll willingly release their credit card details and other personal information. 

The dangers of chocolates and flowers

Another form of malicious Valentine’s Day scams is malvertising. With these scams, cyber criminals inject legitimate online advertising networks with malicious code so that when users click on the supposedly legitimate ads, they’re rerouted to another server that delivers malware to their device. The ads are able to lure in their victims by using words associated with Valentine’s Day such as ‘chocolates’ or ‘flowers’.

Another heart breaker: e-greeting cards

And let’s not forget about those phony Valentine’s Day e-greeting cards. One reason that Cybersecurity researchers always notice a spike in viral infections and scams around Valentine’s Day is the prevalence of fake Valentine’s Day e-cards from “secret admirers” or “classmates”. When you click on the link to open one of these phony greetings purporting to be from a loved one, a friend, or a secret admirer it infects your computer with malware that can be used to steal your personal information and make you a victim of identity theft. 

Putting the fun back in Valentine’s Day

Happily, if we just take a few security precautions, we can still have fun and enjoy a safe Valentine’s Day. For example, if you want to use a dating site, make sure it’s a reputable, nationally recognized site while still keeping in mind that scammers can be lurking on these sites too. And if your new romantic interest on a dating site asks for money, head for the hills.  Also, be wary of generic profiles or people whose profile picture is too drop-dead gorgeous to be real. Most of all, never share usernames, passwords, or financial information. Finally, if you don’t already have antivirus or endpoint protection software, like RAV Endpoint Protection, on your device, make it a priority.

Retailers have a responsibility too

Businesses too need to step up their line of defense against cyber attacks. Often it’s their employees that put them at risk. As Valentine’s Day approaches, employees become more susceptible to opening phishing emails or infected greeting cards and clicking on malicious advertising. Companies should teach their employees about the dangers of clicking on unknown links and sharing personal information on social media sites or via emails. They should also install a powerful antivirus that can protect their data and devices from the devastating effects of cyber attacks.

Feel the love, not the scams

Sadly, Valentine’s Day scams abound. Approximately 1 in every 10 profiles on an online dating platform is a fraudulent user. Look-alike domains are created by scammers to deceive consumers into revealing credit card details and other confidential information. And scammers try to use e-greeting cards as a way to infect undefended computers with their malware. So if you want to feel the love and not the scams on Valentine’s Day this year, make sure you follow proper cybersecurity precautions. And have a happy Valentine’s Day!