Previous: Practicing What We Preach: A Sharp Employee’s Perspective on the WCD Next: Bridging the Remote Office Gap: Tools For the Hybrid Worker Louis Costantini / Thursday, November 18, 2021 / Categories: Blog, IT Services, Cybersecurity 6 Tips for Keeping Cyber-safe on Cyber Monday As the holidays quickly approach, it’s time to get your family and friends’ gift lists out and start looking into the deals that Black Friday and Cyber Monday have to offer. Online shopping has exponentially grown over the past few years, and the 2021 holiday looks to be no different. According to Statista, “in 2020, Cyber Monday became the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history, hitting approximately 10.8 billion U.S. dollars in online sales. This record is forecast to reach new highs in 2021. In the five-day period from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday, known as Cyber 5, online sales are projected to increase by almost 14 percent compared to the previous year, totaling about 39 billion U.S. dollars.” In this digital era, the need to wake up at 2 a.m., pack a duffle bag full of camping gear and load the car full of snacks and essentials to get early deals at stores are long gone. Additionally, the worry about massive crowds (especially during a pandemic), long lines, empty shelves and the occasional pickpocket are a thing of the past. However, online shopping isn’t completely without worry, and there are still many reasons to safeguard your financial and personal information while shopping online. Below, you will find six online shopping tips to help avoid data breaches and fraudulent charges by keeping your information out of the hands of people who made the naughty list this year. Avoid Phishing Emails with Suspicious Offers We have all seen “Liquidation Sale!” “90% Off Retail!” “Buy 1 Get 10 FREE!” email subject lines in our inboxes. Phishing emails contain links that attempt to redirect to a new page without your knowledge. These pages resemble the genuine site, and an unsuspecting shopper will fall victim to malware or online fraud by submitting banking or personal information. When interacting with an e-commerce email, check both the sender’s email address to make sure it matches the company and that the URL in your web browser or mobile phone’s search bar represents the site you intended to visit. Just remember, if the offer is too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid Using a Debit Card Your debit card is linked directly to your bank account. If a hacker gains access to your debit card’s information, they can potentially clean out the funds in your account – leaving a painful process to recover your hard-earned money. Credit cards offer a more comprehensive range of security. If your card number was stolen, there is less liability as most major credit card companies will not charge you for fraudulent use. Shop on Secure Sites and Updated Mobile Apps Only Have you ever seen a URL with “HTTPS” at the beginning? Well, you are in luck because that extra “s” stands for secure. Secure sites ensure that your information is encrypted when transmitting important information, such as financial or personal (name, billing, shipping address, etc.) to a company. The same principles apply to shopping apps. You should always download apps directly from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store instead of a third-party site and you should never provide credit card or personal information to sites or apps that are not secure. Update The Antivirus Protection on Your Device Keep your computer’s security software updated. Anti-virus software provides an extra safeguard when it comes to keeping your data safe by detecting and removing viruses that can steal your personal information. If you are shopping using a mobile device such as a phone or tablet, make sure it is updated with the latest operating system. Avoid Shopping on a Public Network Wouldn’t it be great to go to Starbucks the morning of Cyber Monday, grab your favorite drink and a bite to eat and start shopping in one of their cozy nooks? While this may seem like a great idea at the time, public networks are a prime hotspot for hackers because public Wi-Fi is not secure. Before connecting to a public network, be sure to log out of any banking or payment sites or apps to ensure your information is safe. To stay even safer, be sure to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for better security. Increase Your Password Strength If you are an individual that uses the same password for every login, you are not alone. While this may seem like a huge convenience, it opens the door for hackers if there is ever a data or security breach to happen on a site. According to GOVTECH, “At least 65 percent of people reuse passwords across multiple sites and about 80 percent of data breaches in 2019 were caused by password compromise.” It’s imperative to create unique and strong passwords for every online account and change them every few months to optimize password safety. By utilizing the tips above, you will significantly reduce the risks associated with online shopping. So, while you may have a hard time securing that Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 this year, at least you are putting in the effort to keep your personal and financial information safe and secure when shopping on Cyber Monday and the rest of the holiday season. 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