Seven Top Cyber Tactics for Happy Holidays OnlineDon't let the festivities go to your head - a little common sense will keep you safe online over the holiday season. By: Secureworks
'Tis the season – for dropping your guard. According to Google Trends, online searches on phishing plummet every year over the holiday period.
It's natural – after all, you're with your loved ones, you're full of good food, perhaps a little good drink and you're filled with feelings of goodwill towards all.
The holidays, from November through the New Year provide ripe pickings for online scammers. Remain alert and read our top tactics for making sure you stay safe online this year.
Think, Don't Click
If you want to visit a website, type its address into your search bar and then look for the https sign (a closed padlock) that lets you know your connection is secure.
Never click on a link in an email or social media message, whether it's a too-good-to-resist shopping deal, an e-card from a friend, an online advertisement or a link to some festive LOLs in a tweet. You could end up on a fake shopping site that harvests your payments details without delivering your purchases and you could even download malware to your device. If the extra twenty seconds it takes to type a URL seems a chore too far when you've got a Thanksgiving dinner to prepare, just think about how long it will take to disinfect the malware from your phone.
Double this warning for shortened urls, which make it even easier for criminals to disguise malicious links. And finally, if something looks too good to be true online, it probably is.
Watch out for Wi-Fi
Always avoid using unsecured or free Wi-Fi hotspots, especially for online shopping or banking. It's easy for an attacker to eavesdrop on and steal unsecured communications using free to download software. Keep your card details under wraps for buying gifts, rather than presenting them unwrapped to fraudsters.
And don't forget to secure your Wi-Fi at home. If a neighbor steals your unprotected home Wi-Fi for illegal purchases or browsing, you may end up in trouble too.
Whether you shop via a laptop, a phone or a tablet, keeping it clean of infection, properly configured and in tip top shape is vital. So make sure that the operating system, anti-virus software and malware protection are fully up to date. The same goes for your browser and browser plug-ins too. That way, you protect yourself against the unexpected festive gift of malicious downloads.
Don't Be Casual with Account Access
Stop other people accessing your bank and shopping accounts by enabling multi-factor authentication and playing safe with passwords. That means not doubling up on password use, especially for bank accounts, creating strong passwords and storing them securely in a password manager. And adding a second layer of authentication adds a second barrier to unauthorised access. Why make it easy for fraudsters when you can stop them in their tracks?
Would You Credit It? You Should
Did you know that using a credit card for online shopping limits your liability if fraud does occur? However that's not always the case with debit cards but if you really hate to shop on credit, some card providers do offer single use virtual debit cards with numbers that are only good for one use, limiting the potential for fraud.
Shop Smart When You're Buying Smart
Consumer spending on smart home devices is set to total $93 billion in 2018. Smart assistants, smart lighting, smart wearables – they are likely to top many festive shopping lists. But many of these devices come with major security flaws that can allow hackers to access your home networks or hijack the device to carry out DDoS attacks. So if you're planning to buy smart, make sure you shop smart too.
The most important point is to only buy devices that allow you to change their password – and then to make sure you do. Follow any manufacturer security instructions. Keep any associated apps up to date. Check what data the device collects and research its security rating online before you buy.
Don't Leave Common Sense at Home
These tips don't just apply when you're at home. Whether you're out and about locally or travelling to see family and friends, it pays to continue to take care. All of the tips we've given you are important but as a minimum, make sure you don't connect to unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots. If you need to shop online or carry out online banking while out and about, use a VPN. These are now built into popular browsers or available as apps and they are easy to use so there's no excuse not to.
And this is another great reason to set up multi-factor authentication on your home devices before you leave. That way you can be sure no-one is shopping without your permission while you are away.
Stay safe with these tips and you'll keep holiday stress to a minimum.