In the days leading up to Christmas, I will be covering what I refer to as the 12 Scams of Christmas. Today’s scam relates to one of the little discussed dangers in online shopping. We all know to avoid sketchy websites that may be infected with malware that can lead to serious problems if you unwittingly download the malware such as ransomware, keystroke logging malware that can lead to identity theft or other types of malware. However, even if you make a concerted effort to avoid websites that may be likely to contain malware, you still may find yourself in danger, according to a study by Menlo Security which found that 42% of the most visited websites on the Internet were vulnerable to malware being planted on these thought-to-be safe websites. A major problem is that many popular websites use outdated servers that make them vulnerable to malware and data breaches. Another problem comes from many websites including content from third parties including advertising. Malvertising is the name for malware infected advertising that can turn up on legitimate websites and can be downloaded on to your computer or phone by either clicking on links in the advertising or even, in some cases, by merely going to the website where the tainted advertising appears even if you never click on the ad.

TIPS

The first thing to do to protect yourself from being victimized by malware found on websites is to avoid those websites that may appear not to be legitimate. You also should have strong security software on all of your electronic devices including your computer and cell phone, making sure that you update your security software with the latest security patches as soon as they are made available. Keeping your browser updated with the latest versions is also important. You also may want to consider disabling Java and Flash which have been found to be particularly vulnerable to malware. Finally, you may wish to install ad blocking software that prevents you from becoming victimized by malvertising in all forms.

Here is a link to an interview I did with NBC 10 in Rhode Island with reporter Emily Volz about this scam. https://turnto10.com/i-team/consumer-advocate/12-scams-of-christmas-infected-online-ads

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