Scammers exploit brand loyaltyBig brands explited by cybercriminals

08 December 2009

Keep your PC safe with our essential security tips

Internet scammers are targeting web users with spam emails disguised as official branded newsletters in a bid to secretly install harmful malware of PCs.

Internet security company Symantec has released a YouGov survey that reveals that 85% of people would click on images or adverts without giving them a second thought. By comparison, 43% said they wouldn’t open the same spam email if it didn’t contain an image.

Celebrity spam

Cybercriminals are also cashing in on the trust people have with known brands in particular social networking sites, , and banks, according to the YouGov survey released by Symantec although the security company wouldn’t be drawn on which brands are being exploited.

‘Cybercriminals are always on the lookout for new ways to make money. A current and successful tactic is by exploiting the public’s trust and familiarity in a particular brand or piece of celebrity news and using this trust to gain access to their computer,’ said Orla Cox, security response manager for Symantec.

Internet scams

Some of the common ploys scammers are using include fake information from popular social networking sites, a music download store and holiday related information.

‘Often criminals will use imagery in spam emails, or in advertisements that look genuine but either automatically load malware simply when a person visits that Web page, or download malware should you click on them,’ said Cox.

Symantec warns that much of this information could be used to steal personal information for such as opening with stolen names.

The survey reveals that people are also lured in by images of celebrities especially those that are popular at the time.

Sarah Kidner, editor of Which? Computing said: ‘As far as scams go this is, essentially, the oldest trick in criminals book. Historically criminals use social engineering, of playing on your passions and fears, to get you to infect your own PC.’

‘We’d advise consumers to think carefully before they click on emailed links and remember your bank will never ask you to send personal details such as your logins via email,’ she added.

Stay scam savvy with our guides to spotting, and reporting a scam.

Tips for protecting your PC

• Don’t open suspicious emails or attachments
• Don’t respond to emails asking for personal information
• Use up-to-date security software
• Secure your wireless network
• Use strong passwords
• Review your bank and credit card statements regularly for suspicious transactions

How to follow the latest Which? Tech news

Are you a Twitter user? Follow WhichTech on Twitter for regular tech tweets.

Prefer RSS? Don't miss a thing with the Which? tech RSS feed

For just the main headlines in newsletter form, sign-up to our weekly Which? tech email.

Apple iPad 2 3G data plans compared - find the best 3G plan for your iPad
Best Android tablets round-up - we look at the best iPad alternatives around
Best cheap laptops for under £500 - find the best laptop deals