An estimated 166,522 incidents of malware were detected on Irish computers in the first six months of last year, a 44pc increase on the previous year, according to a new security intelligence report from Microsoft.
The Microsoft Security Intelligence Report predicts that 2008 will see an increase in email and instant messaging-related fraud, as well as electronic greeting card scams.
It is also predicted that criminals will try to capitalise on major events such as this year’s Olympics and the US presidential election.
In global terms, email and instant messaging fraud increased by 27pc and 37pc respectively in the first half of 2007, with predictions of a continued increase in 2008.
One of the biggest growth areas for online threats is electronic greeting card scams, which already account for close to one in a dozen of infected email messages.
These are online cards sent via email, which typically have a subject line such as “You’ve received a greeting from a family member.” When you click the subject line, malicious software may be installed on your computer.
The other area that will see an increase is social engineering attacks, where techniques are used to manipulate people into performing actions or divulging confidential information.
These frequently involve emails that direct consumers to verify credit card or tax refunds through a phone number. The phone number turns out to be a computerised phone answering system that collects the information provided to use for fraudulent purposes.
“Criminals are always trying new ways to access information or money from consumers,” Maurice Martin, business and marketing operations director at Microsoft Ireland, explained.
“The three biggest threats we expect in 2008 are phishing emails, electronic greeting cards and telephone scams.
“In order to help consumers protect themselves, we have published step-by-step guides on these specific threats on the Microsoft website, which tell people how to spot and protect themselves and what steps to take.
“In general, we advise householders to keep their firewall turned on, keep their software up-to-date and use antivirus and antispyware software,” Martin said.
By John Kennedy