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Digital Guardian's Blog

Don't Fall Victim to These Cyber Monday Scams



Phony sites, fake apps, and spammy text messages are just some of the ways attackers can trick users into surrendering credit card and social media credentials.

It’s that time again—Cyber Monday. While online shoppers should exercise caution every day, today the following tips and suggestions should especially ring true. Black Friday and even moreso Cyber Monday can be prime time for online scammers looking to con shoppers by hawking phony sites, bogus coupons, and malicious ads.

Beware of Fake Web Stores

Adept Cyber Monday shoppers hopefully know to look for a green padlock on sites to ensure they’re safe. Make sure to double check a site’s URL too. Attackers commonly use use typosquatting, also known as URL hijacking, to impersonate sites and trick users into thinking domains are legitimate. If you really want to make sure a web shop is legit take a look at its WHOIS record.

Researchers with the cloud security firm Zscaler warned last week about a too-good-to-be-true sale on Ray Ban sunglasses they came across. While the site advertising the sale appears to be legitimate at first glance, the domain name, rayban-outlet.us, should have discerning customers thinking twice before clicking through. The site, which was found on the front page of a Google search for “Ray-Ban sunglasses,” has a questionable WHOIS record:

• Registrant Name: Jiang Yongxin
• Registrant Street: Shanghai 1
• Registrant City: Shangh
• Registrant State/Province: Shanghai
• Registrant Country: CN
• Registrant Email: jyt.832104@gmail.com

If the fact the site was registered in China doesn't deter users, the fact it was registered with a Gmail address should be a dead giveaway it's not legitimate. According to Chris Mannon and Derek Gooley, senior security researchers with the firm, there are 18 other phony websites designed to trick users created with the same email address.

Shopping on Your Phone? Proceed With Caution

Per Kaspersky Lab's Beyond Black Friday Threat Report up to three quarters of emails received on Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be opened on a mobile device. Last year almost 40 percent of sales Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend occurred on a mobile device. So far today, according to Adobe, mobile purchases have commanded sales: 53.3 percent of visits (44.6 percent smartphones, the rest tablets) of sales were via a mobile device. It makes sense; phone users already use their devices for banking, browsing, and keeping up with the news. The problem with shopping on mobile devices – something that's especially compounded on Cyber Monday when deals are only available for a limited time - is that users have less time to think before each purchase.

When shopping, users should ensure its via a company’s official mobile app and not via a mobile browser. Things are less likely to go awry when shopping on an official app. Shoppers should ensure they download apps from legitimate apps stores, like Apple’s and Google’s Play marketplace. RiskIQ, a cybersecurity company based in California, warned earlier this month that one in 25 Black Friday shopping apps - 32,000 apps in total - could be fake. Researchers with the firm claim the apps use the names of well-known retailers in order to convince users into entering their credit card, Facebook, and Gmail credentials.

While shopping on your device,  shoppers should ensure they don’t fall victim to spammy text messages boasting savings or gift cards from Amazon, Walmart, and Target. Both Amazon and Walmart have previously warned users about phishing emails and phony versions of their site; those warning are worth keeping in mind while shopping this week. Shoppers should also think twice about downloading shopping apps if they ask for access to contacts, stored passwords, or have misspelled descriptions.

Other Tips and Tricks

• Looking to get some last minute shopping done at your local library or coffee shop? Avoid shopping via free Wi-Fi connections.

• If you have to, use a VPN that can reroute your traffic through encrypted servers.

• Think before you click. This tip is always a good rule of thumb but something that can easily get lost in the shuffle when paired with the chaos of Cyber Monday. Pause before clicking through that too-good-to-be-true deal posted by a friend of a friend on Facebook. It's likely it could lead to a phony site, as described above, if not malware or ransomware.

• Shoppers should regularly use difficult and hard to guess passwords - but especially today. If you're making a one-time purchase and have to set up a new account on a site consider using a password manager to ensure you’re using different, robust passwords for each site and service. If a site uses two-factor authentication it certainly doesn’t hurt to use it either, even if you’re unlikely to make another purchase from the company.

Chris Brook

ANALYST REPORTS

451 Research Paper: A Data-Centric Approach to Endpoint Security

Chris Brook

Chris Brook is the editor of Data Insider. He is a technology journalist with a decade of experience writing about information security, hackers, and privacy. Chris has attended many infosec conferences and has interviewed hackers and security researchers. Prior to joining Digital Guardian he helped launch Threatpost, an independent news site which is a leading source of information about IT and business security for hundreds of thousands of professionals worldwide.