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Avoid Valentine’s Day Scams, Warns PandaLabs

  • Email and social networking sites, cyber-crook’s preferred means for deceiving users
  • PandaLabs provides tips for Internet users to protect their PCs this Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and couples around the world are getting ready to celebrate it with the traditional exchange of presents and romantic cards. Unfortunately, cyber-criminals are well aware of this, too, and take advantage of special dates like this to trick users and infect as many computers as possible.

“During these days there will be an increase in the number of emails in circulation with links for downloading romantic greeting cards, videos, gift ideas, and Facebook and Twitter messages related to Valentine’s Day, explains Luis Corrons, technical director of PandaLabs. “However, not all of them will be legitimate. In many cases they will be just scams designed by cyber-criminals to infect computers and steal confidential information through social engineering techniques.”

Social engineering techniques are used by cyber-crooks to trick users and convince them to hand over their data, or install a malicious program which captures information and sends it to the fraudsters. Today, most people use social media sites like Facebook or Twitter to communicate, so special care must be taken with messages and links received on these networks. One of cyber-criminals’ most popular tactics involves posting links to sensational news stories or hard-to-resist offers to grab victims’ attention.

Another infection vector is email. “Many of us still remember the infamous “I Love You” worm, which managed to spread and infect computers around the world simply through a love letter supposedly sent by one of your contacts,” explains Luis Corrons. “Today users are more likely to receive spam messages with links to online shops with too-good-to-be true offers, bills for purchases they haven’t made, and all sorts of other scams aimed at tricking them and infecting their computers.”

PandaLabs offers users a series of tips to avoid falling victim to computer threats:

  • Do not run attached files that come from unknown sources. Stay on alert for files that claim to be Valentine Day’s greeting cards, romantic videos, etc.
  • Do not open emails or messages received on social networks from unknown senders.
  • Do not click any links included in email messages, even though they may come from reliable sources. It is better to type the URL directly in the browser. This rule applies to messages received through any mail client, as well as those in Facebook, Twitter, or other social networks or messaging applications, etc. If you do click on any such links, take a close look at the page you arrive at and if you don’t recognize it, close your browser.
  • Even if the page seems legitimate, but asks you to download something, you should be suspicious and don’t accept the download. If you download and install any type of executable file and you begin to see unusual messages on your computer, you have likely been infected with malware.
  • If you are making any purchases online, type the address of the store in the browser, rather than going through any links that have been sent to you. Only buy online from sites that have a solid reputation and offer secure transactions, encrypting all information that is entered in the page.
  • Do not use shared or public computers, or an unsecured WiFi connection, for making transactions or operations that require you to enter passwords or other personal details.
  • Have an effective security solution installed, capable of detecting both known and new malware strains.

Panda Security offers several free tools for scanning computers for malware, like Panda Cloud Antivirus.

More information is available in the PandaLabs Blog.

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