Page last updated at 01:05 GMT, Friday, 18 December 2009

E-crime: Police warning to be aware of cyber criminals

Computer keyboard
Police are warning internet users to be aware of cyber criminals

The Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) has warned internet users to beware of criminals exploiting Christmas to increase their profits.

The agency said cyber criminals use seasonal emails to disguise online attacks which can lead to bogus websites and harmful viruses.

The agency said the intention is to obtain personal information.

They have urged people to make sure their computer equipment is protected with the latest anti-virus software.

The SCDEA said the most likely forms of attack on computers will involve 'phishing' and 'malware'.

'Phishing' leads users to bogus websites with the aim of obtaining personal information, such as bank account details and passwords.

Malware, or malicious software, enables criminals to infiltrate a computer and control it remotely.

Criminals will use clever and sophisticated methods to get what they want, and what may appear to be a comical or friendly Christmas e-greeting could turn out to be something far more sinister
Det Insp Keith McDevitt

Det Insp Keith McDevitt, head of the e-crime unit at the SCDEA said: "People are familiar with traditional festive warnings from police about pickpockets and handbag thieves on the high street, but people also need to be aware of the potential threats on the web.

"These threats exist throughout the year, but increased online activity in the run-up to Christmas offers more opportunity for cyber criminals.

"These criminals wish it could be Christmas every day because it gives them their best chance to steal personal identities and to dupe people into parting with their cash online."

The SCDEA has highlighted examples of the types of approaches that online criminals might use:

· Christmas e-cards:

The agency said criminals use malware as a way of infiltrating computers to steal sensitive information.

· Links to novelty pictures and videos:

Messages which invite users to view humorous videos, games or photos with a festive theme, for example 'See Santa eat his reindeer' can be used by criminals to send malware to access and infect computers.

· Christmas retail offers:

Watch out for bogus emails which appear to lead to legitimate online retailers.

· Bogus websites:

The SCDEA said false websites are used by criminals to distribute a phishing attack, to sell counterfeit goods, to steal credit card details or to obtain cash for goods that will never be delivered.

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