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A Grinchy Cyber Monday

5:35 PM -- I like holidays as much as the next person. Flag Day? I'm waving. Arbor Day? Give me a seedling. Saint Swithens' Day? I dunno what it is, but I'm ready to celebrate.

But I really think before we start celebrating a day every year, we really ought to know what day it's going to be. And that's why all the recent hype about "Cyber Monday" is still sticking in my craw like an undigested turkey bone.

Security vendors have been telling me for months about Cyber Monday, the first Monday after Thanksgiving, which is supposedly the biggest online shopping day of the year. The theory is that as soon as consumers get back to their desks after Turkey Day, they immediately leap onto the Web and start buying everything in sight to get ready for the holidays.

The vendors tell me this is a huge day for security because of all the transactions and potential identity theft that could take place. They look at it as an online criminals' field day, and their products are the mace that shoppers should put in their purses before they go out.

Now, to be fair, this year's Cyber Monday was a big day for online consumer traffic. In fact, according to Neilsen Net Ratings, there was more traffic on e-commerce sites last Monday than on any day of the 2005 holiday season. Clearly, people were looking.

But here's the trick -- most of them weren't actually buying yet. They were browsing, shaping up their ideas, thinking about buying. The biggest buying days actually occur around mid-December, when the shipping deadlines start to kick in, according to Neilsen Net Ratings.

From a security perspective, then, it's hard to see Cyber Monday as being a red letter day for identity theft. Sure, there are lots of exploits that attackers could perpetrate on a browser, but if the consumer is not entering personal info, not getting out the credit card, not filling in the registration form, then it ain't exactly Christmas for thieves.

It's sort of like saying Flag Day is the day that everybody looks at the flag, but they don't actually start picking it up and waving until about two weeks later. Or that Thanksgiving falls on the Saturday before the traditional holiday, because that's when people start hunting for their turkeys.

I'm not trying to be grinchy here, but I think if we're going to pick a day and hype it, we ought to know what the heck we're talking about. Black Friday is real. Just try and find a place to park. But I'm not buying the Cyber Monday deal yet, and I don't think online criminals are, either.

Or as somebody more aptly put it: "Cyber Monday? Bah. Humbug."

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading