With holiday shopping in full swing, most people are already checking off their shopping lists. The current pandemic has had a ripple effect on global shipping and delivery rates due to the shortage of transportation and workers. Due to these supply chain issues, it’s a good idea to get your holiday shopping done as early as possible. If you plan on doing some or all of your shopping online, you must protect yourself from cybercriminals preying on virtual customers. Check out these top five cybersecurity tips below to stay safe during the holidays.
Top Cybersecurity Tips to Stay Safe During the Holidays
There are an estimated 7.9 million online businesses around the world. A 2021 Adobe report predicts that online customers in the U.S. will spend around $209 billion this year alone. With the rise of online businesses and the convenience of ordering gifts from home, it’s helpful to follow cybersecurity best practices. These security practices will help prevent criminals from compromising your personal information, such as credit card numbers, login credentials, and more.
1. Only Shop from Trustworthy Sites
With a vast sea of online stores, it can be tempting to purchase something from a site that no one has heard of nor has reviews from real customers. Unfortunately, cybercriminals take advantage of the holiday seasons to create fake sites like the legitimate versions. These sites will likely lure prospective customers in by offering products and services at ridiculously low prices for a limited time. Indeed, it’s essential to research thoroughly a website before making a purchase. This will mitigate the risk of purchasing from a fake or malicious website, which could steal, compromise or sell your sensitive data.
When researching an online store, check for:
- Reviews about the site and products/services
- Better Business Bureau (BBC) accreditation
- Social media presence (what do followers say?)
- Contact information (address, phone number, email address, and contact form)
2. Use Strong Passwords and Multi-Factor Authentication
This next tip should be followed regardless of the time of year. As technology improves, hackers will find new methods to break into online accounts. One of the easiest ways that these criminals gain access to accounts is by guessing easy passwords. Fortunately, you can safeguard your data by following these password and multi-factor authentication suggestions.
When creating a password, remember to:
- Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols
- Use a unique password for each online account
- Use a reputable password manager service that will store all of your passwords on a secure platform (free options like LastPass)
- Never choose a password that includes personal information that can be easily found (i.e., your birthday, pet’s name, username, or address)
- Never share your password with others
- Always store both written and digital login details in a secure location
- Not use a simple password like “password” or “123ABC”
As for multi-factor authentication, this provides an additional layer of security for customers. Most reputable banks and payment sites will offer this security feature. If your favorite ecommerce sites offer this to customers, you can easily enable this feature in the user account settings. When an individual enters their correct login credentials, the site should then request a one-time verification code. These verification codes can typically be sent via phone, text, or email. Even if a hacker gains access to someone’s login information, they will not log in without the unique code sent to the customer. Indeed, the user must enter the correct code within a short timeframe, typically 5 to 10 minutes after sending the code.
3. Monitor Your Bank Activity
This is yet another tip that is recommended to be done regularly. Since cybercriminals are most active during the holidays, it’s a good idea to spend extra time monitoring your bank account weekly. If you detect suspicious activity on your bank or credit card statements, you can immediately contact your bank about these red flags. Your financial provider will verify that you did not make the charges and then work to recover the lost funds back to your account. Many fraudsters will start with small transactions from your most frequented online stores and then progress to much larger transactions ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Keep in mind that you only have a limited amount of time to report possible fraud, which is why regular monitoring is essential.
4. Be Aware of Holiday Scams
As an online customer, you will come across scams frequently. These scams are amplified during the holiday season. Phishing scams can include emails, phone calls, text messages, and social media ads. When you receive these scams, it’s essential to remain calm and avoid doing anything hasty. A typical example is when you receive an email that contains a link to a fake website. The website may appear like a trustworthy site, but it is not. Once on the site, you will be asked to enter your login information or purchase something with your credit card details. Remember to always trust your gut. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is!
Tips for dealing with scams:
- Look up the contact information associated with the message, such as the company name, email address, and person’s name. (This will help you determine whether something is a scam or not.)
- Never click on a link from an unknown source (e.g., text, email, or social ad)
- Compare the link address from the fake site to the legit site’s URL by hovering over the link.
- Never provide personal information to someone who calls you (scammers may pretend to be your doctor’s office, insurance company, or bank) and claim that you need to provide the information immediately. (Legit companies will never contact you for sensitive data.)
5. Keep Your Devices Updated
Did you know that your device’s operating systems frequently release updates that fix security issues? If not, it’s recommended to update your devices as soon as new security patches are released. This will ensure that your device is best equipped to fight off hackers trying to locate loopholes to gain access to your phone, tablet, or computer. You can enable automatic updates to make it easier, so your device is as secure as possible.
Don’t Let Hackers Ruin Your Holiday Cheer
Whether you are a business owner or not, these cybersecurity tips will help mitigate your chances of becoming a cyberattack victim. We all know a friend, family member, or business partner who has fallen victim to malicious hackers that live on the web. By following these recommendations, you can reduce the likelihood of hackers ruining your holiday cheer.
At TokenEx, we are on a mission to protect the world’s most sensitive data. Our company was founded by former QSAs dedicated to helping businesses achieve their goals, minimize security risks, and meet compliance requirements. For additional information about the TokenEx Data Protection Platform and our services, contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.