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Tech bargain hunters risk malware exposure, reveals study
Mon, 29th Jan 2024

Research from MoneySuperMarket Credit Cards has identified that up to a third (33%) of search engine results for certain popular tech products could link to potentially harmful websites infested with malware. The company strung together the names of trending tech brands and products with keywords like 'Deals', 'Sale', and 'Cheap' to generate a list of search terms one might use when hunting for a bargain.

To determine the percentage of hazardous search results, the first 60 URLs generated for each keyword combination were gathered and analysed using the SiteCheck malware and security detector tool by Sucuri. The top 10 riskiest tech items according to the study are: MacBook Air (33%), Samsung Galaxy Buds (32%), Amazon Fire TV Stick (30%), Samsung Galaxy S23 (28%), Xbox Series X (25%), Samsung "The Frame" TV (23%), Nintendo Switch (23%), iPhone 15 (22%), Sonos (18%), and PlayStation 5 (18%).

The investigation has brought to light that people attempting to find deals on Apple's MacBook Air are most exposed to harmful websites, with 33% of the analysed websites flagged as potentially bearing malware. Following closely were Samsung's Galaxy Buds at 32% and Amazon's Fire TV Stick coming in third at 30%.

Whilst most users are aware that downloading or accepting anything from unfamiliar websites can pose a security risk, simply visiting such sites could be enough to initiate a 'drive-by download attack.' In these instances, malicious code is surreptitiously downloaded onto the user's device without their consent and often preys on weaknesses in outdated software.

It is therefore pivotal for online shoppers to regularly update their operating system, browser, and applications, and to get rid of outdated or unnecessary software or browser plugins.

Money expert from MoneySuperMarket, Kara Gammell, commented, "Whether you’re looking for a must-have gift in limited supply or looking for the best deal to stretch money further, the holiday period is a busy time for shoppers, retailers, and scammers. Scammers are more sophisticated than ever before and they don’t care who they target so it's more important than ever to be cautious when shopping online."

Gammell advises online shoppers to thoroughly inspect a website they haven't used previously before inputting their details, including checking reviews and registration details. For added security, she suggests making online purchases with a credit card to benefit from the added protection of the Consumer Credit Act. Lastly, as is often said, "If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is."