I'm beyond tired of hearing about ‘economic meltdown'. For those of us in a semi-permanent state of self-imposed penury (you know, journalists), the end of the financial world as we know it can be of only vague interest.

(Even schadenfreude has a limited shelf life, it seems. Who knew?)

Sadly, there being a bit less cash swilling about the place does have a direct impact on all internet users. Even the sensible ones.

As all professional drunks know (mine's the usual by the way), there's nothing more irritating than the pre-Christmas rush of ‘normal people' who clog up the bar, ruin the jukebox and simply don't know how to behave proper down the pub. And now we have to face amateur night on the web.

Masses of punters with reduced pocket money are turning to the net for Christmas and January sales shopping. According to a Shop.org study, 56.1 percent of online retailers expect their 2008/9 holiday sales to increase at least 15 percent over last year. That's a staggering figure in current climes, and it must have high-street giants gnawing at what's left of their calcified hearts as they peruse their wince-inducing rental agreements.

But this increase in online transactions represents low-hanging fruit for black hat hackers. Mix two parts of cash with just a smattering of tech savvy, add only a hint of internet streetsmarts, and you get an online security blood bath.

As a consequence, security firms now predict a huge spike in malicious email-, PDF- and website-based attacks up to, over and immediately after Chrimbo 2008. Inevitably, tonnes of people will get stung, making an already bleak Yule positively Dickensian. (‘Please sir, I want my Wii.')

The fact that you're reading PCA means you should have enough sense to steer clear of too-good-to-be-true offers (they are). But your friends and colleagues may not be so blessed. So this year, instead of indulging in that ‘Christmas cheer' nonsense, spread the good news of internet security software, avoiding dodgy downloads and not clicking links in email.

Visit Security Advisor for the latest internet threat news, FREE net threat email newsletters, and internet security product reviews

Visit Broadband Advisor for the latest internet news, reviews, tips & tricks - and to take advantage of PC Advisor's unique, independent Broadband Speed Tester