December 9

Increasingly more people are opting to do their holiday shopping online rather than subject themselves to the chaos of crowded malls this time of year. Saving people time and energy over the hectic holiday season is no doubt a great benefit brought by the evolution of the internet, but it doesn’t come without its own unique set of evils.

Keep Data Safe This Holiday Season - Consumers online face a number of cyberthreats and potential data safety issues

Keep Data Safe This Holiday Season

Recent incidents of cybersecurity and data theft have brought light to the risks consumers face when sharing and entrusting their sensitive data with corporations and third party institutions. Malicious intentioned cyber criminals continue to develop new, tech-savvy ways to hack into people’s private accounts for the purpose of stealing sensitive information.

Protect your data while doing your holiday shopping online this month by following the tips and safety precautions below:

Don’t shop on open Wi-Fi networks or hotspots, e.g. in coffee shops, restaurants, and public places.

  • While you may think you’re secure surfing on Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop, doing so makes yourself a target for hackers set out to steal sensitive data. They have the know-how to tap into your browser when it’s in this vulnerable state. Wait to place orders and submit sensitive data until you’re on your home or other trusted, secure network.
  • If you need a second cause for concern, over-the-shoulder snoopers could be unknowingly snapping a pic of your data as you enter it while online shopping at your favorite café. You may think you’re being vigilant, but they are purposely out to swindle so it wouldn’t be as obvious as you may have yourself believe.

Never submit credit card information or offer private details of your identity on a site that isn’t SSL encrypted.

  • SSL encryption is indicated by URLs beginning with HTTPS:// rather than just HTTP://.
  • Secure webpages can also be specified by the icon of a locked padlock in your browser—usually located to the right of the URL in the address bar or in the status bar at the bottom of your browser.
  • Encryption is important; submitting sensitive data outside of secure webpages and communication leaves your data vulnerable to attack.

Don’t shop on unfamiliar websites.

  • Search results can be rigged to direct you to scam sites looking to entice you with seemingly unbeatable deals, but only to get you to give up your info. Check for misspellings and for sites using a different top-level domain e.g. .net in place of .com. Those are common tricks used by scammers to mislead you to believe you’re on a familiar site to get you to give your info.

Keep your PC up-to-date with the latest updates—including those for software apps.

  • This is especially important for your browser, as outdated versions leave vulnerability to attack. Savvy hackers can download malware onto your computer to inflict a virus or steal any sensitive data stored. Downloading regular updates to your anti-virus program and browser help protect against malware.

Password safety is a key measure to preventing hacks and theft.

  • Your password should be strong and only entered when browsing on a secure network.
  • This rule of thumb applies to both PC and mobile devices.

Be wary of email phishing

  • Cyber criminals use deceiving links via email to direct people to click, only to end up downloading harmful malware or a virus that enables the hacker to steal sensitive data stored on the PC or device. Never open an email or click on an email link sent from a source you don’t already know and trust.
  • Another trick used is directing to a webpage that offers a special deal or coupon to trick people into submitting sensitive data. Check that you’re on the secure webpage for a trusted source before submitting any information—including username and password, credit card numbers, and social security number.

Check your financial information regularly, looking specifically at what should be there and scanning for anything that shouldn’t.

  • Asking periodically for your credit report and making sure there aren’t any surprises is another precaution to ensure nothing alarming has occurred under your identity that you’d otherwise be oblivious to.

Last but not least, know when a good thing is suspiciously good.

  • Scammers use too-good-to-be-true offers and deals to lure people in, only to end up stealing their data once submitted. McAfee publishes a list of top Christmas scams around this time every year. Check out on of their compilations of common scams here.

Category: helpful hints, data loss prevention

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