Ransomware attacks up 90% ahead of holiday shopping season | #phishing | #scams

A Valley tech expert explains how cybercriminals are operating and what you can do to protect yourself.

PHOENIX — We’re just a couple of weeks out from Black Friday, but a lot of us are checking off our holiday wish lists already to make sure we get those items in high demand.  

But keep in mind, ransomware attacks are up a dramatic 90% in the past six months alone.

A Valley tech expert explains how cybercriminals are operating and what you can do to protect yourself.  

“Ransomware is such a lucrative cybercrime that organized crime units around the world have taken it up as their primary means of generating revenue,” tech expert Ken Colburn with Data Doctors said.  

Colburn has been in this line of work for 33 years, and this year he’s once again keeping close tabs on what the cybercriminals are up to this holiday season.  

“These are businesses, they are illegal enterprises, but they are run just like businesses,” he said. “When they see an opportunity and they can extract large amounts of money, especially from businesses now, that’s why it’s grown so much.”  

And with more people shopping online during the holidays, cybercriminals have more windows of opportunity to take advantage of people who don’t have their guard up.  

“The holidays I always call it the Christmas for criminals, because they know people are going to be shopping online,” Colburn said. “They know that people are going to get excited about getting great deals, those hard-to-get items, they know how to play all those social engineering tricks.”

So, Ken has some advice for you to beef up your own security measures and not be fooled by what looks like a legitimate shopping website.   

“There are tools that will actually help you sniff out those phishing sites and they’re free,” he said. “There’s one from Trend Micro called Check, and you just add it to your browser and then any time, if you do a google search, within the google search it will show you check marks on things that they’ve been able to validate.”   

Other tips: don’t use a debit card when making online purchases, always use a credit card for better protection.  

Colburn says if you plan to shop with a popular retailer, shop through the store’s app to bypass phishing scams and when it comes to passwords, double the length of your passwords to make them stronger.  

“It’s like anything else, if you’re aware of the risks and you take steps to mitigate those risks, it’s just like driving a car,” he said. “There are some pretty severe dangers, because we’ve taken all the steps we can, to try to prevent those tragic situations and the same should be true for any kind of online shopping.”

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