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Halloween celebrations on Monday are likely to be haunted by rampant malware infections and an onslaught of internet scams, security watchers warn.

Wicked writers of devilish code are likely to take advantage of the festivities to spook surfers with search engine poisoning attacks that point browsers towards websites infected with malware or peddling scareware.

"The combination of things that people will search for online at this time of year presents multiple opportunities for scammers to try to compromise personal data and corrupt computers," said Jovi Umawing, a research analyst at GFI Software. “It is paramount that people are vigilant and approach anything with a Halloween theme with caution."

Halloween has repeatedly been exploited via various scams, the most noteworthy of which are listed below.

  • Shopping scams: bogus Halloween gift card offers have appeared via email in each of the last three years. Marks are offered free £250 Halloween gift cards, supposedly in return for signing up for a new credit card, often from a high-interest rate card issuer. "This is in fact a scam to harvest your personal and financial information for criminal use at a later date. The data doesn't even go to the legitimate credit card issuer referenced," Umawing intones.
  • The Dancing Skeleton: joke emails and comedy animations in the form of a desktop widget loaded with a scary hidden backdoor. Variants of the infamous Storm trojan used this trick.
  • The fake party invitation: emails with malicious attachments that pose as supposed Halloween party invitations. "Even if you receive an invite from known individual, approach with caution and check all links before clicking on them," GFI warns.

Links distributed via social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, from compromised accounts also pose a risk. Scammers may disguise the true destination of a web address in these cases using URL shortening services.

GFI's warning is repeated by Trend Micro, which has published an infographic on seasonal threats here. ®

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