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Security vendors predict malware armageddon

November 24 has been dubbed "black Monday" by security software firms, who reckon that day will see a peak in the spread of information-stealing malware.

Last year, PC Tools used data from 500,000 antivirus installs to pinpoint a dramatic uplift in virus attacks three days before Thanksgiving [apparently it's a US holiday, ed], just when online Christmas shopping was kicking off in earnest, and IT staff were on holiday.

In retrospect, then, 2007's "black Monday" was Monday 19 November. Don't you just hate (black) Mondays?

See also: The web's credit crunch sucker punch

Of course, history is useful only if you learn from it. And PC Tools' Kurt Baumgartner is confident November 24 will be the day to batten down the hatches. It's worrying stuff, not least because these figures measure only malware that actually makes it on to users PCs.

And you can blame the prevailing economic condition if this year is worse than last, according to Trend Micro. As the credit crunch bites, Christmas shoppers are turning to the web in their droves, hunting down bargains they can't find on the high street.

Because of this, Trend Micro spokesman Adam Biviano said we should look out for Christmas specific malware, in the shape of electronic greetings cards and the like. He told the Sydney Morning Herald: "It's typical for the orchestrators of malware attacks to make use of public holidays, make use of special occasions, because it gives them an angle from which to attract people to click on their link [or] download their attachment."

And according to PC Tools' Baumgartner, those who disseminate malware are getting increasingly creative. For instance, the flaw in PDF document readers we reported last week means 'clean' PDF files can spread malware. Even worse, banner ads on even legitimate sites have been infected, redirecting people to malware sites.

As ever, the best advice is simple: avoid clicking links in emails unless you're convinced of their provenance, and steer clear of any deal or site that looks too good to be true. It is.

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