Tech support and survey scams among biggest online threats for New Zealanders in 2021 – report

The top three phishing scams in the second quarter of 2021 were:

  • Survey scams, for example an Amazon buyer survey designed to collect personal information in exchange for unrealistic rewards
  • Tech support scams, for example a Microsoft-themed scam capitalizing on users’ fear of being unprotected online
  • Supplement scams for example a scam offering amazing weight loss results designed to get credit card details.

“Scammers are very good at harnessing human emotions to put you in a state of panic,” says Marcel Feller, senior security researcher at Norton Labs.

“When you are in this state, you are more likely to comply with whatever the scammer wants.”

In the three months covered by the report, Norton blocked a total of 909 million threats, the company said. This included 56 million malware and over 85,000 ransomware attempts.

Working from home due to COVID-19 has had an impact on the format of phishing attacks, but as the world opens up the types seen are expected to diversify again.

“Cybercriminals often use the news to make their scams more compelling,” says Darren Shou, chief technology officer, NortonLifeLock.

“We anticipate that crooks will pivot to tailor their phishing attempts to themes such as travel and back to school.”

Norton has also investigated other threats to Kiwis online that they consider “invisible” to the majority of users, including crypto chat rooms, for example stolen goods offered for sale on Telegram, as well as threats against players.

In the latter case, people who play games online may be looking to gain additional advantages over their opponents, such as auto-aim hacks for first-person shooter games. Others may look for “cracks” – software that allows them to play games they haven’t paid for.

Sites that offer this type of software may include vulnerable drivers and often come with instructions for disabling any running security software in order to do so.

“Through trickery and psychology, cybercriminals ‘socially manipulate’ gamers into installing vulnerable drivers that are compromised by other software into cheats and cracks,” Norton said.

“In turn, this leads to the compromise and infection of computer systems. And this could lead to the theft of personal information as well as takeovers and loss of virtual assets.”

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