SEATTLE , WA- Bad guys are poised to plunder online holiday shoppers.
On Black Friday, Cyber Monday and throughout the 2012 holiday shopping blitz, cybergangs are expected to unleash a variety of old and new Internet-based scams to steal identities and hijack online accounts.
"This is prime time for cybercriminals," says Brendan Ziolo, vice president at security firm Kindsight.
Crooks' incentive: Some 41% of consumers plan to use their PCs, tablets and smartphones to shop online, up from 37% last year, according to PriceGrabber.
That means millions of people will be using computers at home and work to shop for gifts. What's more, roughly half of them use Web browsers lacking the latest security patches, making them prime targets for computer infections that saturate the Web.
"Users of all major browsers are using outdated software containing known vulnerabilities," says Wolfgang Kandek, chief technical officer at patch management firm Qualys.
Qualys recently analyzed more than 1 million Internet-connected Microsoft Windows PCs and Macs. It found 56% of users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer surfed the Internet using an older version of the popular Web browser carrying widely known security flaws. Hackers are expert at tapping into such flaws to seed infections.
Some 49.2% of users of Mozilla's Firefox, 47.5% of Google's Chrome and 37.4% of Apple's Safari also used browser versions lacking the latest security updates. Using an outdated browser - and clicking on a Web page booby-trapped with a hidden virus - can turn control of your computer over to an intruder.