Malware infections over the Christmas holiday period are something to be expected. Every year as the number of online shoppers increases, the number of Windows malware infections increases with them. Data from Enigma Software Group (ESG) indicates that between Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2015, the rate of malware infections was 84% higher than it normally is.
Throughout the same period in 2016, malware infections were 118% times the rate witnessed at other times during the year. Christmas season malware infections were two-times that of 2015, leaping by 106% between Black Friday (November 25th) and Cyber Monday (November 28th). The number of devices which fell victim to malware was certainly higher as ESG figures only used data from PCs, excluding both mobile devices and Apple computers.
ESG believes the increase is largely due to the number of people who go online and make purchases during the weekend, which traditionally marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, very large numbers of people go online in order to look for bargains and to benefit from the low prices often offered by online retailers.
Unfortunately, according to ESG spokesperson Ryan Gerding, the growth in holiday season malware infections is primarily due to cybercriminals getting smarter and much better at tricking their victims into downloading malware to their devices.
One of the most common methods which users fall victim to is by fooling them into clicking links in malicious emails. Spammers are very active over the holiday period and there is an annual spike in spam emails in the run up to and during the Thanksgiving weekend. The emails offer their recipients bargain deals, free presents, and vouchers. In order to take advantage of the said offers, the user must click on a link which is included in the email. The links are malicious and serve to direct the victims to websites that download malware. Alternatively, malicious links may also posted on social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter.
For the most part, the malware infections were bloatware and adware that slow computers and display unwanted advertisements, however ransomware infections have also increased. ESG reported that 0.5% of the infections concerned ransomware – twice the number of ransomware infections that were seen during the same period in 2015.