McAfee, the technology security company, has just released its 2012 Holiday Shopping Study — an online survey of over 2,300 U.S. adults. Several things in this study caught my eye.
The first is that this upcoming shopping season, one in four Americans plan to do their online shopping this year via a mobile device — a tablet or a smartphone.
This is potentially a very large number of shoppers, and perhaps the number includes you, and given the growing sophistication of online criminals the potential millions of online shoppers using mobile devices has to give pause to those of us in the online privacy business.
Some other findings from the newly released study also worry me.
Overall, 70 percent of those surveyed plan to shop online this holiday season, and while most are aware of the risks, a high percentage say they are willing to give away their personal information if they can get something they value in return. Eighty-seven percent of smartphone or tablet owners surveyed admit they are at least somewhat concerned that their personal information could be stolen and, amazingly (to me, at least), nearly nine in ten say they are willing to run the risk in order to receive an offer that is of value to them.
These shoppers open themselves to some obvious dangers:
Social Media Scams
Cybercriminals and scammers use channels, like Facebook and Twitter, just as they do bogus emails and phony websites to scam consumers during the holidays. You need to be vigilant and careful when clicking on links or liking posts, while jumping into the offer of contests with wonderful prizes and clicking on fan page deals offering the hottest gifts at the best prices. You may get messages from friends urging you to install apps in order to receive discounts. If so, you need to worry that your friends' accounts have been hacked and are sending out bogus messages. You should also beware that Twitter ads and special discounts utilize blind and shortened links. Many might be malicious.
Malicious Mobile Apps
Speaking of malicious apps, there have been more than 25 billion (with a "b") apps for Android devices alone that have been downloaded. As the popularity of applications has grown, so too has the chances that you could download a malicious application designed to steal your information or send out text messages to all in your address books without your knowledge.
Gary Davis, vice president of McAfee Global Consumer Marketing warns that during online holiday shopping you need to keep your personal and financial information secure. You need also to remember to be wary of offers that seem too good to be true. You should never click on links or open attachments from people you don't know and even then it's best to query them if they actually sent you the message in question. Beware of corporate emails or sites that look suspect. Finally, go directly to websites by typing their name in Web address bar and not through search engines.
I can only echo each of these warnings.
I remain determined to make your holiday shopping as safe as possible. I'll pass along some other valuable tips in my next blog.