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Don’t Let Cybercriminals Ruin Christmas, Says ESET

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Guest written by: ESET

For many, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year – but find oneself a victim of an online attack and the season may turn sour. With spirits and internet usage at an all-time high there’s no better time to lure a victim online – but don’t worry; ESET’s gift to its users this Christmas is the gift of knowledge, as we share defenses against these 12 threats.

  1. Phishing: It may be the season of goodwill but that’s certainly not the case when it comes to cybercriminals. Phishing attacks usually occur via email and see users receive an authentic-looking email from a bank or organization luring them to enter their personal details on a similarly authentic-looking website.
  2. Adware: You may have noticed that after you search for an item online, it starts to pop up on other websites you visit. This is known as adware, and is customized for users and may be monitored by spyware. While one may think these adverts are there to remind users to complete their Christmas shopping, the innocence of the pop-up is questionable.
  3. Mobile Malware: If there’s one piece of technology that gets a lot of usage of the festive period, it’s the mobile phone. Unfortunately, it’s no safer than desktops or tablets thanks to the rise in mobile malware. As Lukáš Stefanko, malware researcher at ESET, recently said: “Mobile malware is a huge problem. [Because] users have more personal and sensitive information on their smart devices, including text messages, contacts, photos, emails etc, [they are increasingly under threat].”
  4. Smishing: Most of us are aware of phishing attempts over email but what about phishing attempts over SMS? Typically, one will receive an SMS apparently from a trusted source – like Apple or a friend – advising users to click on a link and enter personal details. However, that SMS is forged and not from that trusted source at all.
  5. Identity Theft: Busy sharing all of festive plans and holiday travel online? Think before it is posted. Simple details about one’s lifestyle can allow a cybercriminal to gather personal information and even trick users into giving out more. Social media websites are a gold mine of information for identity thieves.
  6. Spyware: He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake … It’s not Santa Claus we’re talking about, it’s the cybercriminals behind spyware – secretly installed malware often installed after a file is downloaded or pop-up is clicked. Spyware can monitor users’ keystrokes, read files, access applications and more – transmitting all the information back to the person that controls the spyware.
  7. Spam: If shoppers been busy ordering all their Christmas gifts online, they may find themselves receiving even more unwanted emails than usual. Most of us receive spam, and although it’s not always something to worry about, it can be used to send malware.
  8. Pharming: Like phishing, pharming is a type of online fraud but doesn’t require user to click on a bogus link sent via email. Instead, a user is redirected to a malicious site – despite having typed the correct web address. This year, up to 40,000 Tesco Bank users became victim to pharming attacks and 20,000 had their money stolen.
  9. Ransomware: With the rocketing costs of Christmas, ransomware is one type of malware one won’t want to be faced with this December. It’s a type of malware where cybercriminals encrypt a device/information, demanding victims pay to have their devices/information returned to them.
  10. Wi-Fi Eavesdropping: Doing a spot of festive shopping at a local coffee shop? Remember that not all internet connections are secured – which is to say encrypted – and that someone may be listening in and collecting your information. When transmitting payment details across unsecured networks, they can end up in the wrong hands.
  11. DDoS Attacks: A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack can take the fun out of things like online shopping and gaming as it makes a service unavailable after flooding it with traffic from multiple sources. DDoS attacks have been cited as stealing Christmas for many – especially in 2014, after knocking PlayStation Networking and Xbox Live offline.
  12. Password Security: The importance of a secure password has never been greater. Cybercriminals crack passwords for so many reasons – whether it’s to gather personal information about user or to commit fraud. If users receive a new device this Christmas, make sure to replace the default password with one that’s more complex.

While there are plenty of threats to be aware of, sensible online behavior and a cautious attitude will help ensure all that the yuletide celebrations run as planned.

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The Pros and Cons of Choosing Between SSD and HDD as External Storage Device

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Written by Antoine Harb, Team Leader – Middle East and North Africa at Kingston Technology

As we spend longer hours online for work, school, entertainment, and other activities, more and more files are being saved in the internal hard drives of our computers every single day. Eventually, this internal hard drive will not be enough to accommodate all our files, making it all the more vital to find high-performing and secure external devices for backup and new data storage.

When it comes to external storage devices, the options include external solid-state drives (SSDs) and traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). SSDs are commonly installed into your computers as their internal storage. These days, however, a number of people are turning to SSDs to use them as their external storage as well.

The two technologies have different speeds, durability, capacity, and cost. Before buying an external storage device, it is best to determine your needs, desired specifications, and your budget. This way, you are guaranteeing that you are purchasing a device suitable to your requirements.

Weighing the devices’ pros and cons is the way to go to ensure you get the best value for your money.

External SSD vs. External HDD
Compared to SSDs, HDDs are more affordable with higher capacities. An HDD is better suited for archiving inactive and/or less frequently accessed data. With that said, however, an HDD in contrast to an SSD, is more prone to failure of moving parts that can lead to data loss. The high-capacity SSDs, on the other hand, is faster and more powerful than HDDs, thus enabling quick access to your files. With a lightweight design for portability and easy use, they are smaller in size and have better transmission speeds. They can also be relied upon if you need external storage with superior performance.

There are other benefits of using external SSDs. While known for its fast processing of a large amount of data, an external SSD operates without the distracting noise and vibration typically present when utilizing an HDD. Additionally, the shock-resistant SSD scores way better in the area of durability —the lack of moving parts allows the technology to withstand harsh environmental conditions.

But with its advanced and reliable features, the super-fast external SSD storage device costs more than the traditional HDD. If, however, you are planning to buy a faster or larger capacity SSD to upgrade your current PC storage, you can opt to recycle the old one and use it as external storage. In order to have more space, you will need to either remove the existing files or reformat the old SSD. This strategy will help you save on cost while enjoying a faster external storage product.

Furthermore, when purchasing an SSD as your external storage, you have to keep in mind that this technology is not suitable for data archiving or cold storage of data. The reason behind this is that an SSD, which is designed for everyday use, caters to those who require high-speed performance.

External SSDs and HDDs differ in many ways. They both come with pros and cons.  When choosing the right one for you, it all boils down to meeting your needs.

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Expert Speak

Watch Out for These Scams Targeting Amazon Customers

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Written by Amer Owaida, Security Writer at ESET

Amazon is the largest online marketplace in the world boasting over US$386 billion in revenue in 2020 with 200 million subscribers to its Amazon Prime service just in the United States. And that’s just a fraction of the whole customer base that it serves around the globe year-round. Of course, such a huge customer pool attracts cybercriminals who are looking to make a bank by scamming unsuspecting victims with a variety of tricks that they have in their arsenal of scammery.

Fake order phishing email
As with any major service, Amazon is no stranger to being spoofed or impersonated by enterprising fraudsters who are looking to dupe people out of their personal information or to access credentials to their accounts. The emails you may receive can take on various forms, however, they usually impersonate a common Amazon dispatch email, that regular customers have encountered many times over. For example, you might receive one confirming a purchase that you didn’t make and tries to trick you into clicking on various links that look like contact information to Amazon’s customer service.

These links can then redirect to something looking like the official Amazon login page, however, when you try to sign in you will have divulged your credentials to the scammer. Alternatively, by clicking on the link or attachment in the email you may download a malicious payload to your device that will attempt to download keylogging software that will try to harvest your credentials to any services you use.

Generally speaking, unless the fraudster behind the scam did an immaculate job with the counterfeit email there are several warning signs that will give it away as an attempt at phishing. If the email contains, typos, grammar mistakes, or an attachment it is most assuredly a scam. When checking out a link that you’ve received in an email, by hovering your cursor over it, check whether the address is something.amazon.com where something is one of many valid Amazon subdomains – for example, pay.amazon.com or www.amazon.com. If you suspect that you’re being phished you should contact Amazon directly, since it takes these issues seriously.

Gift card scams
Gift card fraud is another perennial problem that you can encounter. The con-artists may utilize different strategies to dupe their victims, however, the ultimate goal remains the same – trick them into purchasing and sending Amazon gift cards. Popular tactics usually include evoking a sense of urgency or pressure in order to make victims act quickly rather than give deep thought to the contents of the message or phone call.

Victims may receive unsolicited email messages or phone calls about a pressing issue involving their social security numbers or benefits and to resolve it they’ll have to pay a penalty using gift cards. Alternatively, victims may be told that a family member is in trouble and needs financial help. There are multiple scenarios at play where fraudsters can also impersonate Amazon itself, claim to be someone from the management of the victim’s employer, you name it.

However, fortunately, most of these scams can be uncovered quite easily if you keep a cool head. Government officials will never ask you to pay a fine or penalty with a gift card, so you can be 100% sure that if you get such a request it’s a scam. As for the rest of the scenarios, to verify the claims you just need to call your family member to see if they’re in trouble or the person from your company that requested the gift cards. And of course, it goes without saying that you should contact all of the aforementioned people or institutions through the verified official channels.

Payment scams
Payment scams come in many shapes and sizes, and while the form may differ, in the end, the scammers behind them are after only one thing – the contents of your bank account. There are multiple ways that this can occur. One tactic that is often utilized is trying to convince you to pay outside Amazon’s secure platform. The crooks will try to lure you in various ways by offering a discounted price, for example, however, if you relent, the most probable outcome is that you’ll both lose your money and won’t get the product.

And additionally, you won’t be able to lodge a complaint with Amazon since you paid the fraudulent charges outside the confines of their platform. Other flavors of payment scams to watch out for include paying to claim a prize that you’ve supposedly won or to a seller whose identity you can’t verify, and avoid offers that seem too good to be true or that you find suspicious.

The obvious advice, in this case, is to stick to Amazon’s platform for all orders and payments. Even the company itself warns against sending money outside the confines of its platform: “Don’t send money (by cash, wire transfer, Western Union, PayPal, MoneyGram, or other means, including by Amazon Payments) to a seller who claims that Amazon or Amazon Payments will guarantee the transaction, refund your funds if you’re not satisfied with the purchase, or hold your funds in escrow.”

Dodgy phone calls
Sometimes scammers will resort to more “analog” means to try and hoodwink their victims – fake support calls. The content of the calls might vary, however, they often sound like a pre-recorded message impersonating Amazon claiming it has registered something wrong with your account, something that would pique your interest – a fishy purchase, lost package, etc.

According to a warning issued by the United States Federal Trade Commission, the message will then either inform you to press 1 to speak to a customer support agent or give you a number to call back. If you engage in conversation, the scammers will most likely try to wheedle sensitive data out of you like your personal information or your payment data.

The most sensible thing to do, before going into full-blown panic mode, is to check if there is anything suspicious going on by contacting Amazon through the direct channels listed on the support section of their website. The company does acknowledge that in some cases it may make outbound calls but it will never ask customers to reveal any sensitive personal information in order to verify their identity.

In summary
When it comes to online shopping and its related activities the saying “trust but verify” remains as true as ever. To sum it up, most of the scams can be avoided if you remain vigilant, curious, and keep your wits about you. If you receive any unsolicited emails be extra careful to verify their provenance and never divulge personal sensitive information to anyone claiming to be a “customer support representative or agent”.

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Expert Speak

Create a Ring of Security Around Your Home

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With an app and a couple of gadgets, technology can provide peace of mind in the toughest of times – whether you’re at home or away, says Mohammad Meraj Hoda, vice president of Business Development – Middle East & Africa at Ring

Over the last year, we have learned that there’s no such thing as a predictable routine. Even as UAE authorities do their utmost to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, once-mundane everyday schedules can easily be disrupted by abrupt school closures, sudden quarantines or even an endless procession of deliveries of all kinds. At times when it can all get a bit too much, an extra layer of security can offer peace of mind.

But when you can’t bring in new household help with visa and travel restrictions, technology can do your bidding instead. Indeed, technology is now so far advanced that with a couple of installs and a few quick tweaks, you can protect your home inside and out. With a video doorbell, indoor cameras around the house, and an app, you can create a ring of security around your home within a few minutes.

When you choose a single brand of products, such as Ring, the appliances can easily work together, and best of all, everything can be monitored from your smartphone – even if you happen to be elsewhere physically. As UAE residents have become more alert to visitors and the risks accompanying them, convenience and safety are more important than ever. This is where Ring’s bouquet of products can help.

Video Doorbells Help Everyone
Since they were first created in 2013, video doorbells have proved their worth repeatedly in many different situations around the world. From a bear trying to open a car door to meteors flying through the skies, they have captured a number of untoward and unwanted visitors around the world. Products such as the Ring Video Doorbell 3 are activated by motion around your front door and begin recording events within their line of sight. Because Ring video doorbells connect to the internet via your home Wi-Fi system, this video feed can be set to be livestreamed straight to your phone, or you can access it later.

Even if you are at home, there is no need to go to the door. You can see who your visitors are from your smartphone. With the Ring Video Doorbell 3, you simply tap on the alert to check who’s at the door and even communicate with them. Even if you are at home, you can safely keep your distance from visitors, and if necessary, ask them to leave packages at your door.

Indoor Cameras Offer Peace of Mind
Meanwhile, for family-focused people who are away in the office or at an event outside the home (perhaps even in another emirate!), an indoor camera provides the assurance that no untoward incidents have taken place at home. Perhaps you want to chat with those who are at home, verify if your teenage kids are getting to their homework, or if your cat has been playing up while you’re away. A quick check is easy with a compact indoor camera such as Ring’s new Indoor Cam, which slots unobtrusively into small spaces around the home.

This clever new device makes it easy to speak with older family members or see if school children have reached home. Between the indoor cameras and the outdoor doorbell camera, you can easily keep an eye on every corner of your home from anywhere. In addition, with Ring’s Protect Plan, it’s easy to add an extra layer of security to your home.

Although life has become more challenging on so many fronts, technology can help the stresses of living through these strange times. A little planning and a few moments’ work can go a long way to securing peace of mind for everyone at home.

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