Holiday season malware infections are to be expected. Each year as more shoppers head online, Windows malware infections increase. According to figures from Enigma Software Group (ESG), between Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2015, malware infections were 84% higher than normal levels.
However, this year during the same period, malware infections were 118% times the level seen at other times of the year. Holiday season malware infections were twice that of last year, jumping by 106% between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The number of devices infected by malware was undoubtedly higher as ESG only used data from PCs, not mobile devices or Apple computers.
ESG attributes the increase mostly to the number of individuals that head online and make purchases over the weekend, which marks the start of the holiday shopping season. Over Thanksgiving weekend, huge numbers of individuals head online to look for bargains and take advantage of the cut price deals offered by online retailers.
However, ESG spokesperson Ryan Gerding said the increase in holiday season malware infections is due to cybercriminals getting smarter and much better and fooling victims into downloading malware.
One of the main ways that users are infected is by clicking links in malicious emails. Spammers are particularly active at this time of year and there is a spike in spam emails leading up to and during Thanksgiving weekend. The messages offer email recipients cut price deals, free gifts, and coupons. The emails contain links that the users must click to take advantage of the offers. Those links direct the victims to malicious websites that download malware. Malicious links are also posted via social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
The majority of the malware infections were bloatware and adware that slow computers and display adverts, although ransomware infections have also increased. ESG reports 0.5% of the infections involved ransomware – double the number of ransomware infections that were seen during the same period last year.