Will It Be a Black Monday for Malware?

By Matthew Hines  |  Posted 2008-11-20 Print this article Print

Desktop anti-virus and management applications provider PC Tools, acquired by Symantec in August, is predicting that Nov. 24 will repeat as the annual high-water mark for overall malware threat volume.

PC Tools and other security researchers bestowed the title of "Black Monday" on the date in 2007 when nefarious cyber-activity peaked on the Monday before Thanksgiving in the United States.

According to intelligence garnered via the company's ThreatFire network--which is fed by reports emanating from the machines of PC Tools' half-million-plus customers--that will again be the case, the company reported Nov. 19.

"Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving, is so named because it is the official start of the Christmas holiday shopping season across the nation, helping many retailers get "into the black" for the year.

E-commerce researchers then dubbed (or rather tried to affix the moniker to) the following Monday "Blue Monday," as they claimed that it's the leading time for online holiday sales, as workers return to the office after T-Day and begin spending more time shopping whilst on the job.

PC Tools is basing its Black Monday 2008 claim on the fact that one year ago it saw the highest volume of spyware threats that its network has ever observed. The company is also theorizing, like others watching the retail sector -- including the National Retail Federation -- that the current economic climate is pushing shoppers to seek deals earlier, rather than wait until the last minute and potentially miss out.

As a result of its Black Monday prediction, PC Tools is advising PC users to go to even greater lengths to ensure that their machines are protected in preparation for the impending malware torrent.

However, other researchers have cited both the prediction of a surge in attacks and the notion of working harder to secure one's computer for one particular day as flawed on several levels. "This isn't just drivel, it's dangerous drivel," Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at security rival Sophos, wrote in a blog post. "The danger is that people will begin to think that they need to take computer security more seriously on one day rather than another. The truth is that you need to be security-conscious on every day of the year."

Cluley compared the Black Monday hype with Symantec's prediction that there would be 200,000 new viruses arriving on Jan. 1 of 2000 -- an estimate that never panned out.

"Half-baked guesswork about if a day in the future might be a bad one for malware attacks has about as much science behind it as examining chicken entrails," Cluley wrote. "It makes for a cute headline, but a harmful message."

Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWEEK and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to SecurityWatchBlog@gmail.com.

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