10 tips to help you stay cyber safe while holiday shopping

  • Posted on December 8, 2017
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
cyber safe holiday shopping

The following blog post was written by Avanade alum Joseph Davis.

Many of you will be shopping with tech devices such as mobile phones or virtual assistants this holiday season. However, recent Avanade research on holiday shopping indicates that there are some risks: As many as 82% of Americans surveyed said they are most concerned about the following:

  • Having credit card information stolen (58%)
  • Getting scammed by a fake website when buying something (49%)
  • Having their personal identity stolen (47%)

Here are several tips that could help you stay cyber safe during this holiday season.

  1. Look out for phishing attacks. Many times, criminals will send you fake fraud alerts to attempt to have you call, email or visit their websites to collect credit card information. This is known as a phishing attack. Don't respond to emails or texts that indicate fraudulent activity on your credit card by using the number included in the message. Always call the Customer Service Number on the back of your credit card with any questions or responses to fraud alerts.

  2. Be aware of the ‘man-in-the-middle’ technique. Be wary if you receive the below warnings on your mobile device or web browser. This may indicate that you are a victim of what is known as a ‘man-in-the-middle’ attack. This usually occurs over wireless networks where data thieves setup fake wi-fi access points that look legitimate to the unsuspecting. This allows the thieves to collect data sent and received from your mobile device or computer. Because all the data they collect is unencrypted, they will have access to some of your most confidential information during a holiday purchase – e.g. Amazon (or any retail website) username and password, shipping address, billing address, and full credit card information.

  3. Know to look for the 'S' in https and the lock icon in many browsers. This will indicate that your session is protected by encryption.

  4. Turn on two-factor or multi-factor authentication for all your social media apps and online shopping accounts. This will ensure that even when a thief has access to your username and password, they will not be able to logon to your account, because they will need a special code that's sent to your mobile device through a phone call or a text message.

  5. Do not use the same password for more than one website or mobile app. This ensures minimal negative impact in case of a hack.

  6. Using a password manager helps. When choosing passwords, it is strongly recommended that you use a password manager, to not only securely store and share your account passwords between computers and mobile devices, but because password managers allow you to choose very long random passwords for websites and mobile apps that you don't have to remember. Many password manager services have an option for credit card and online account monitoring. They will make you aware of any suspicious account activity on your accounts or credit cards.

  7. Keep a balance between password complexity and length. We often ask ourselves - how long should a password be? Many security experts have recommended password complexity over password length, however, many of us find that password length is a much more powerful deterrent to password compromise. For example, a password like HappyHolidaystoYouandYourFriendsandFamily is much less susceptible to compromise than d@t%l)/K7.

  8. Consider using Web of Trust (WoT), https://www.mywot.com/en/download, which ranks the safety of the website that you are using. There is also a mobile version. WOT will give you live warnings on unsafe websites, which will reduce the chances of you falling for a phishing attack.

  9. Keep an eye out for authenticity. If a website doesn’t look ‘right’, close your browser and start again by typing the website address yourself. Avoid clicking links. Keep an eye out for poor grammar and misspellings on popular websites. This is an indication that the website may be counterfeit.

  10. Childproof your devices. Children can be particularly inquisitive when using your laptop or mobile phone. If you share your device with a child, make sure you are using safe browsing settings and keep your anti-virus / anti-malware software up-to-date.

By being vigilant and following these simple tips, you can significantly reduce the chances of cybersecurity hacks, resulting in a safe and successful online shopping experience. Happy Holidays!

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