The next time you receive Web links in holiday-related e-mails, think twice before clicking on it, for researchers have warned that it is a risk that could put your identity or your computer in the hands of criminals.
Gary Warner, director of Research in Computer Forensics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), said that last year security researchers saw the creation of the world's largest 'botnet', or collection of personal computers being controlled by hackers.
"This botnet, called 'the Storm Botnet,' has at various times included more than 3 million infected computers. One of the primary ways machines became infected was by users clicking on e-mails that were often associated with holidays, including Valentine's Day, Labour Day, Fourth of July and others," Warner said.
During Christmas time, the 'Storm Worm' creators sent e-mails with dozens of Christmas and New Year's-related greeting messages. A computer that clicks on the link in the e-mail message will be attacked by malware, which tries to join the computer to the criminal's Botnet.
Once joined, the computer begins sending spam messages for the criminals, and may be used in other types of cybercrimes.
"The same advice that we normally give applies here. Clicking on Web links in e-mail messages is a dangerous practice, which could give your identity, or in this case, your computer, to the criminals," Warner said.