The first Monday after Thanksgiving is known as the biggest online shopping day of the year, Cyber Monday. More than 90% of retailers contribute to online deals and participate in online pricing wars. With so many shoppers turning to online spending, hackers have begun strengthening their cyber-attacks. Avoid the malicious threats and security breaches this holiday season by practicing the following cybersecurity tips from the leaders in cyber security in Washington DC.
CONFIRM YOUR BROWSER IS UP TO DATE
Keeping your software updated will help prevent various types of infections from entering your computer and accessing your sensitive information. Whether you use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Microsoft Edge, be sure to check for new versions and regular updates. Fortunately, most modern web browsers will automatically update themselves, however, be sure your device is no longer running an older browser.
SHOP WITH SECURE NETWORKS
When browsing online be sure to use secure wireless networks. At home, work or running errands, never use an open or public Wi-Fi hotspot to make purchases. Ensure that you are connected to a trusted access point to avoid piggybacking, wireless sniffing and/or other malicious cyber threats. Piggybacking allows a hacker in range to connect to your access point and conduct illegal activities like stealing personal information. Wireless sniffing is the practice of using sniffing tools to obtain personal information such as credit card numbers and passwords.
DON’T CLICK UNKNOWN LINKS
Be careful of duplicate websites and unsolicited attachments within an email or links on a retail page. Confirm a website will encrypt your information and display valid certificates; to avoid attackers who create malicious sites to gather your sensitive information. Some indicators that show a website has a valid certificate and your information will be encrypted is locating the padlock icon feature and noting that the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) begins with “Https” instead of “Http”.
CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS FREQUENTLY
A common security tip is creating strong passwords and changing them frequently. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) developed specific guidelines to implement when you are creating passwords. A couple of guidelines include using different passwords on different systems and accounts, never use personal information, use the longest and most complex passphrases permissible and do not use words found in any dictionary of any language. An example of recreating a password to these guidelines would be taking the word “cooking” and using “iLtCf” for “[I] [l]ike [t]o [c]ook [f]ood”. Using variations of uppercase and lowercase letters also adds a layer of security. Security professionals recommend changing passwords every 30,60, or 90 days.
MONITORING BILLING & BANK ALERTS
A great way to monitor your shopping, both online and in-stores, is downloading your bank’s mobile app or registering for text alerts. You will be notified of any changes to your account immediately. If there is a discrepancy, report it as soon as possible. Keep a record of your purchases and copies of confirmation pages to compare them to bank statements. Another great way to minimize potential damage is by using a single credit card to make online purchases and when using gateways such as PayPal, Google Wallet or Apple Pay.
This holiday season trust your instincts while shopping, always using encrypted web sites and protecting your computer and all information on it by following our cybersecurity tips. Before submitting any personal information to retailers, be sure that the privacy of that information will be protected. To learn more about cyber safety, visit our cybersecurity page or read our blog on What is Cybersecurity?