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Cybercriminals Ready for Banner Holiday Shopping Season

Black Friday and Cyber Monday will kick off a record run for online fraudsters, researchers say

Two days before Black Friday, and cybercriminals are on the brink of some of the best hunting they've ever had, according to companies that study the retail security market.

In the last week, several researchers have released their studies predicting cybercrime trends for the impending holiday shopping season. Unless you're a criminal, the news isn't good.

The cost of cyber fraud will rise to $3.6 billion this holiday season, up from $3.1 billion in 2006, according to the annual study conducted by CyberSource, an e-payment and risk management vendor. The percentage of fraudulent transactions will stay about the same -- around 1.4 percent -- but the costs of handling those incidents is rising, and the total volume of fraud is expected to increase along with the volume of online shopping, CyberSource says.

"The picture is one of merchants swimming harder against an accelerating current," says Doug Schwegman, director of customer and market intelligence at CyberSource.

And there's no indication that end users will behave more responsibly or intelligently than they have in past years, according to a new report from Webroot Software, a maker of anti-spyware and other security applications for consumers and small businesses.

Almost 70 percent of consumers say they have "no concern" about online transaction security, according to the Webroot report. Only 20 percent said they will alter their online shopping behavior because of security threats, and 30 percent said they will not check their credit reports to see if they have a problem.

"With high percentages of online shoppers using their credit and debit cards unaware of the security risks or necessary precautions, it's going to be open season for cyber criminals," said Mike Irwin, COO at Webroot.

Some cybercriminals save up their new exploits for the holidays, Irwin suggested. "Last year, we saw a 173 percent spike in spyware in the October to December time frame," he said. "Twenty percent of that spike involved new malware. Clearly, these thieves are literally breaking out their finest new malware for the season."

Security vendor Sophos predicts that the number of online shoppers will rise again this year, from 71 percent of computer users last year to 73 percent this year. The company warned consumers and businesses to be wary of fraud during the holiday season.

"Cybercriminals are becoming craftier and smarter in the ways they exploit consumers to steal their personal information," said Mike Haro, senior security analyst for Sophos. "This holiday season, consumers should be more prepared and aware of the risks, especially as these crimes have been reported quite heavily in the news. Having the right line of defense in place and knowing what signs to look out for will help online shoppers to avoid potential credit card fraud and identity theft."

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  • CyberSource Corp.
  • Sophos plc
  • Webroot Software Inc.
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