Guide to online safety in 2010

The online consumer is more vulnerable than ever thanks to focused cyber crime tactics. In order to make online security a priority, MessageLabs says it’s best to watch out for these key trends in 2010:

1. Don’t trust all celebrity news online as they star in spam: Events such as the election of U.S. President Barack Obama and the deaths of singer Michael Jackson and actor Patrick Swayze were major spam themes in 2009. Following Jackson’s death on June 25th, approximately 1% of all spam referenced Michael Jackson (that’s over a billions spam messages per day!)

2. Be careful while searching for cash online: Cash-strapped consumers were easy cyber crime targets in 2009, given the global credit crunch. Recession-based spam found its way into in-boxes and contained hyperlinks to major well-known search engines. Reputable domains played key roles in spammers’ arsenal.

3. Fooling the test to prove you’re human: You may think they’re annoying, but these puzzles of jumbled letters/numbers on many websites are actually important anti-spam features. However, thanks to readily available CAPTCHA-breaking tools, cyber criminals able to by-pass them to create large amounts of real webmail, instant messaging and social networking accounts that lead to increases in spam. You can expect to see more than just word jumbles like images and audio added in the future, as CAPTCHAs evolve to make it harder to spammers to crack.

4. Short messages, big problems: URL-shortening services are popular on many social networking sites and the use of shortened URLs in IMs has been growing since 2008. Unfortunately, shortened URLs have also become increasingly popular with spammers, who use the URLs to disguise the real destination of their spam. IM spam is expected to increase in 2010.

5. Be careful who you friend: In 2009, MessageLabs Intelligence tracked a huge jump in the number of spam emails containing links to popular micro-blogging and social networking websites – from 1% to 4% or all spam traffic.

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