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Don't give away your personal data this Christmas

Trend Micro : 17 December, 2008  (Technical Article)
With cyber criminals set to rake in big rewards over the holiday period, Trend Micro releases a warning not to make their lives too easy
The run up to Christmas is a peak time for online crime. Research from Trend Micro has revealed that cyber attacks rose 500% in the key shopping period between September and December in 2007. And we're already seeing a similar trend in 2008.

But did you know that cyber criminals are making a serious profit of selling our stolen personal and financial details on the "online black market" this Christmas? Whilst you're writing your shopping list, the online mafia is drawing up their very own list of most wanted gifts.

This is what the 12 days of Christmas looks like to an online thief:

Day 1: Advanced malware package worth £1400
Day 2: 10,000 jeopardised PC's with dangerous spying software installed worth £700
Day 3: Basic malware pack, simple box of tricks for criminals to obtain your info for £700
Day 4: Guaranteed undetected Trojan, used to steal information for £60
Day 5: Your stolen bank details starting at £35
Day 6: Stolen credit card details starting at £25
Day 7: 30,000 UK based email addresses for spamming purposes for £5
Day 8: 1,000,000 international email address for spamming purposes just £4
Day 9: Login for MySpace account just £1
Day 10: Login for Skype account a bargain at £1
Day 11: Online computer game account £1 only
Day 12: Facebook profile just 89p, 10p more than a single on iTunes!

"We still give away a huge amount of personal information on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Hoards of cyber criminals are also drawn to these sites as crucial data, needed for identity theft, tends to be readily available - including email addresses, names and birthdays for example", says Rik Ferguson, Trend Micro.

"Whether you're going online to use Facebook, doing your banking or Christmas shopping you should be aware that hacking activity and identity theft tend to increase during certain times of the year. As we approach Christmas we urge users to apply a certain sense of caution when it comes to the sites they visit and giving away personal information."

Here are Rik's top tips for staying safe:.

1. Look for the padlock - If you can see it in the bottom right hand corner of your browser it's a good sign that the site you are on is secure.

2. Vary your passwords - It might be a pain to have to remember more than a couple of different passwords, but otherwise if someone finds out one, they've found the lot. You should definitely use a different one for online banking, and change it every few months.

3. Use the privacy settings on social networking sites - And report any suspicious behaviour to the group moderators.

4. Clean your machine for free! - It's the only way to make sure that there is nothing nasty lurking on your computer watching what you do. If you're worried you can scan and clean your machine for free by visiting the housecall section of Trend Micro's web site.

5. Always use protection software - To ensure you are protected at all times invest in some software to help you stay safe online.

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