Today, we issued a release on the proliferation of identity theft malware during times of economic crisis. Our research found that the number of users affected by malware designed for identity theft has increased 600 percent this year compared to the same time in 2008.

PandaLabs receives nearly 37,000 samples of new viruses, worms, Trojans and other types of Internet threats each day. Of these, 71 percent are Trojans, mostly aimed at stealing bank details or credit card numbers, as well as passwords for other commercial services. Between January and July 2009, PandaLabs received 11 million new threats, approximately 8 million of which were Trojans. This is in clear contrast, for example, to the average of 51 percent of new Trojans that PandaLabs received in 2007.

PandaLabs estimates that approximately three percent of all users have fallen victim to these techniques. The problem with these types of threats, unlike traditional viruses of the past, is that they are designed to go undetected, and therefore users do not realize they have become victims until it is too late. To avoid falling victim to identity theft, we recommend consumers follow these preventive measures:

  1. Be aware of any kind of message that requests personal data from you. It is extremely improbable that online banks, payment platforms or social networks will ever send messages (emails, texts, etc.) to users asking for their login credentials, and much less for their credit card details.
  2. Whenever you access an online bank, store, etc. always type the address directly in your browser. It is never advisable to enter these sites through links received through any channel or links returned by search engine results.
  3. After having written the address in the browser, double check that the URL is really the one you have entered, and that the address has not changed into something unusual when you have clicked ‘Enter’.
  4. Check that the page contains the corresponding security certificates (these are generally displayed with a ‘locked padlock’ icon in the browser).
  5. Always have a good security solution installed on your computer. This will help detect if you are entering a spoof Web page. It is always good to have a second opinion to ensure that you have not been infected by Trojans or the like. You can get this through any reliable free online application, such as Panda Online Antivirus.
  6. Above all, if you have any suspicions don’t enter your details and contact the corresponding bank, store or service provider that you are trying to access. Any established organization will have a customer service line you can reach directly.
  7. If you are someone that frequently uses online services for shopping, banking, etc., you can also get insurance for your online activity, which will cover you in the case of fraud.