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Tech support scams top the list of cyber security threats

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Tech support scams are the number one phishing threat and are predicted to increase as we approach the Christmas holiday period, according to the Norton Consumer Cyber Safety Pulse report.

To kick off Australian Cyber Week 2021, NortonLifeLock has published its third quarterly Consumer Cyber Safety Pulse report which highlights the trends in internet security and safety.

Tech support scams are the top threat with pop up alerts which are convincingly disguised using the names and branding of major tech companies.

They are designed to trick you into thinking you are facing a cyber security threat and require you to take immediate action.

For example, a user may receive an alert saying “your PC is at risk” as an attempt to steal your personal information, take money from your bank account or install dangerous software on your device.

These tech support scams have increased during the COVID pandemic because savvy cyber criminals know there are more people than ever who rely on their computers and mobile devices to work and learn from home.

The three points of the scam triangle is what they play on – fear, uncertainty and doubt, according to the Norton report.

After the initial contact, they will try to compel you to make a decision which is not in your best interests including installing software that gives them control of your PC or handing over credit card information so they can bill you for their “services”.

Norton blocked more than 12.3 million tech support URLs with tech support scams topping the list of phishing threats for 13 weeks in a row between July and September.

In Australia alone, Norton successfully blocked 35,438,273 cyber safety threats in the past quarter – that’s 395,198 blocks per day.

Globally the figures for this same quarter reached almost 860 million including 41 million file-based malware, 309,666 mobile malware files, nearly 15 million phishing attempts and 52,213 ransomware detections.

“Tech support scams are effective because they prey on consumers fear, uncertainty and doubt to trick recipients into believing they face a dire cybersecurity threat,” says Darren Shou, head of technology NortonLifeLock.

“Awareness is the best defence against these targeted attacks. Never call a number listed on a tech support popup, and instead reach out to the company directly through their official website to validate the situation and next steps.