With Black Friday and Cyber Monday now behind us, the holiday shopping season is in full swing. Early reports indicate that online shopping rose 17 percent this year, with consumers spending $1.46 billion in online purchases on Monday alone. As we know by now, whenever there’s a dramatic rise in online spending, there will be a corresponding spike in cyber crime. Whether you’re looking to protect yourself while shopping online this season, or ensure that your network is safe as employees scout the best online deals, we’ve got you covered. We asked our friend and Internet security expert Jerry Gamblin to share his top 5 tips for safe online shopping this holiday season.

Jerry GamblinJerry Gamblin‘s Top Five Tips to Stay Safe Online this Holiday Shopping Season:

  1. Update your security software and other applications. Keeping the software on your system up-to-date is an important part of keeping your system safe and secure. Many security experts recommend running Secunia PSI on PCs. It automatically finds all of you outdated software and updates it for you.
  2. Use a credit card instead of a debit card. If you have a problem with a purchase or your card number gets stolen, your debit card is more vulnerable because it is linked to your bank account. Don’t spend the time you could be watching A Christmas Story fighting with your bank to get money back in your account.
  3. If it seems too good to be true, it’s probably a phishing email. Watch out for “special deal” emails you receive that appear to be from legitimate retailers. Look for poor grammar or misspellings in the email and URLs that take you to places other than the retailer’s website. If in doubt go directly to the retailer’s website and check for the deal there. (Hint: you can take OpenDNS’s phishing quiz to test your skills)
  4. Use OpenDNS. Using OpenDNS is a great way to make sure you don’t end up on a site that might steal your passwords or credit card number. The version for home users automatically protects against phishing or other sites you choose to block. OpenDNS also offers Umbrella, which protects business networks and users against malware and botnets.
  5. Use a different password for every website.This could be the most important thing  you  do to keep safe online, but it isn’t easy. Websites that keep user data are prime targets for hackers, so the best way to limit the damage done to you is by never having the same password on two websites. If you can’t remember all the passwords, use a service like LastPass to help. When hackers hack a website and find a usernames and passwords the first thing they do is try to on as many popular websites as possible. If your passwords don’t match they will move along and try the next one on the list.

Of course, you can always try holiday shopping the old fashioned way and go out and hit the stores!

What are your tips for staying safe this holiday season? Leave them in the comments below and we’ll share them on Twitter and Facebook over the next few weeks.

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