During the holidays, millions of people around the world turn to the Internet to complete their shopping lists. In fact, this past Cyber Monday was the biggest in history, with deal seekers spending an estimated $2.29 billion on gifts for their loved ones (or for themselves). But with great convenience comes great danger; criminals are lying in wait for unsuspecting consumers to fall into their traps.
We’ve detailed this phenomenon on our Labs blog, with Security Researcher Ping Yan examining Black Friday scams – but the trend will continue throughout the season. Give your family IT specialist one less thing to do while they fix your computer after dinner by following these 10 tips for secure holiday shopping:
1. Make sure your software is updated. Keeping your browser and anti-virus up to date, and ensuring that you have the latest OS patches installed should be the first stop on your virtual shopping journey.
2. Only shop with reputable online retailers. Although other sites may advertise “unbeatable deals,” you may be signing up for malicious attacks. Stick to the official pages of stores you are familiar with. Checking the contact information section is a good way to judge a site: if an email contact is the only method listed, you may want to do more research.
3. Another way to ensure your transactions are legitimate is to check for security symbols on the site. If the URL: if it begins with HTTPS, it indicates a secure page. You can also check for a padlock or key symbol in the address bar.
4. If you’re doing your shopping on a mobile device, be sure to use apps purchased from official sources, like Apple’s App Store or Google Play. This will decrease the chances of downloading a malicious application.
5. Stick to your own devices when it comes to online shopping – you should never enter sensitive information, such as personal or financial details, into a public computer. Also, make sure your wireless connection at home is secure and password-protected.
6. Speaking of personal data, avoid oversharing when completing an order. Don’t give away more details than necessary – if a store is asking for in-depth information that has nothing to do with the sale, you may want to think twice.
7. A paper trail is still important, even in the digital age. Keep a copy of any and all receipts you receive during your retail marathon, and check your card statements regularly. Any suspicious activity or purchases could be a sign of compromise.
8. Tis’ the season for giving – and for scamming. People are more generous during the holidays, and criminals take full advantage this. Protect yourself by being selective, and thoroughly researching any cause you plan to donate money to this year.
9.) Consider using credit cards instead of debit. If your card information IS stolen, credit companies are more likely to cover the fraudulent charges – a criminal with free reign over your bank account won’t be as nice.
10.) “If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands.” The same can be said for suspicious-looking websites. If you have to think twice, that is one time too many. Steer clear of these domains.
Following these tips should help you stay safe and avoid getting ripped off (by malware, anyway)! Good luck and happy shopping!