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Security & privacy

Here’s why hackers love Christmas, too, and how they’ll try to ruin your holiday

Christmas Day is a special time of the year for families across America. It’s a spiritual time for many as the year comes to a close, as well as a time of togetherness, family and generosity.

And what could be more generous than loads of high-tech presents and gadgets under the tree? Tech gifts continue to be popular year-round, but the Christmas season delivers a spike that retailers can’t help but get excited about. Tap or click to see some the most popular high-tech gifts this holiday season.

But retailers aren’t the only ones noticing how much technology is changing hands on Christmas. Hackers are eager to take advantage of all the new gizmos flooding the market — and are using freshly opened gifts as target practice for their hacking skills.

Have a wacky, hacky, Christmas

According to new reports from CNBC, Christmas has become somewhat of an unofficial holiday for hackers in the past several years. This phenomenon sprung from the sheer amount of tech-based gifts and toys making the rounds each year — each one an opportunity for hackers eager to strut their stuff.

One of the biggest high-profile hacking incidents happened on Christmas Eve 2014, when a hacking collective calling themselves the Lizard Squad attacked the online gaming servers owned by Sony and Microsoft for more than two days. Tap or click to learn more about this cyberattack.

By crippling XBox Live and the PlayStation Network, new game consoles purchased in time for Christmas became useless — essentially canceling Christmas gaming for excited children and adults across the country.

This incident was only the beginning. Widespread denial of service attacks that slow websites and platforms to a crawl have become extremely popular on Christmas. So if you find that your gadgets are mysteriously not working right out of the box, it may just be hackers having some fun on Christmas.

Why do they do this? What can I do to stay safe?

The 2014 incident shows much of the mentality behind wide-scale hacking attacks on Christmas. Much of the behavior is driven by a desire to “troll” people, or “ruin Christmas” for laughs. Alternatively, some hackers see the holiday as an opportunity to prove themselves to potential employers with proofs of concept.

As for defending yourself, since many of the biggest targets for Christmastime hacks are more high profile, there isn’t much that can be done. If an internet provider or service goes down, it doesn’t directly affect end-users other than being inaccessible.

That said, one type of cybercrime that skyrockets during Christmas is ransomware attacks. This is because hackers wager affected users will be more likely to pay in order to keep the holiday running smoothly for their family members.

To keep yourself safe from ransomware, always be careful with downloads of any kind. Don’t open or download any email attachments you aren’t 100% sure about, and stick to familiar parts of the web whenever possible — at the very least until Christmas day is over.

Tap or click here to learn how to protect yourself against ransomware attacks.

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