Post-Thanksgiving shopping has changed. Black Friday now begins on Thursday (if not sooner) and the Cyber Monday deals may last all week (or longer). But that doesn't mean you shouldn't take care to protect your personal information and your finances, whether shopping with your feet in the stores or with your fingers online.
Here are a few security tips to keep in mind while shopping this holiday season.
1. Beware of phishing attempts
This is something you should be vigilant about year-round, but during the holiday season you may see more attempts to get you to click on a link that results in malware on your machine. Your spam filter should be weeding out the emails that are potentially malicious, but the bad guys are very good and some may slip through. Remember the best practices: If you don't know who sent you the email, don't open it; don't click on links in unsolicited emails; and finally, if it sounds too good to be true, trust your gut – it's probably a scam.
Be cautious of all emails, even from people you know. Email addresses can be faked.
Check the address of websites links in an email before you visit.It may be obvious by looking at the web address that the site is not genuine.
Never reveal confidential information unless you are certain that the person you're communicating with is genuine, and even then, ask yourself if you should be sending such information over email.
Remember that banks will never ask for personal details by email.
2. Look for signs of security
Before entering any personal or login information on a website, check to see if the URL in the address bar of your web browser starts with "https://".The "s" indicates the communication between you (your browser) and that website is encrypted. A closed padlock also indicates a secured transaction. Never enter any information if the page is not secured by HTTPS.
3. Use multi-factor authentication wherever you can
Many online stores will want you to create an account with them as you check out with your shopping cart. If you choose to do so, rather than check out as a guest, make sure the password you create is strong, and better still, use multi-factor authentication if it's offered.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a security methodology that requires more than one method of authentication to verify a user's identity and combines two or more independent credentials.This makes it more difficult for unauthorized access to your online accounts and helps to protect you from fraudulent activity.
4. Don't use public Wi-Fi
You may be tempted while physically shopping inside a store to use its Wi-Fi network to jump online in order to skip the line. Or you may use the coffee shop Wi-Fi to get online and snag the perfect gift that popped into your head while sipping your latte. Don't do it. Don't trust your address, credit card information and anything else personal to public Wi-Fi.
The open nature of public Wi-Fi networks allows for compromised machines or even malicious hotspots.The level of security on these open Wi-Fi networks is minimal or even non-existent.So, if you do need to shop or do online banking while out and about this season here are a few tips.
- Don't allow your Wi-Fi to auto-connect to unknown networks.
- Don't leave your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth on if you are not using them.
- Don't log into any account using an app that contains sensitive information. Go to the website instead and verify it is using HTTPS before logging in.
- Don't access websites that hold your sensitive information.
- Don't log onto a network that isn't password protected.
- Use a virtual private network (VPN) application to make sure your public Wi-Fi connections are more secure.
- Disable file sharing.
- Only visit sites with HTTPS and a valid SSL certificate.
- Log out of accounts when finished using them.
The holiday season is a time of thanksgiving and joy. Let's all adopt a "buyer be aware" attitude to avoid events that may squelch the spirit of the season.