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Holiday Cybersecurity: Online Shopping Tips to Stay Safe

3 min read

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The last of the Thanksgiving leftovers have been eaten and the holiday shopping season is officially underway. A significant portion of that shopping will be done online. It’s a fast and convenient way to shop – especially around the holidays when there are more people to buy for, more commitments on your time, and more inclement weather.

Unfortunately, hackers and cybercriminals come out in full force this time of year to lure you into sharing your personal information. Instead of dealing with a hacking nightmare, we have some tips to keep your holidays full of joy.

Recent trends in holiday online shopping

Unfortunately, the convenience and growth of online shopping are met with many cybersecurity risks. We have broken them down into three groups and provided online holiday shopping tips for WHAT, WHERE, and HOW you shop.

WHAT you shop with

Some important tips regarding the devices you use to make online purchases.

  • Updates. Protect your devices by keeping the software on your mobile phones, computers, and tablets up to date. Enable automatic software updates where applicable.
  • Wi-Fi. Never enter personal details into a device when you are on a public network. If you want to do some of your holiday shopping on public Wi-Fi, set up a VPN (virtual private network).
  • Passwords. Use different and complex passwords on your devices and e-commerce accounts. Consider using a password manager to help. You can also download our desktop guide to strong passwords.
  • Privacy. Check the device’s privacy settings to understand how the information will be used and stored. Make sure you aren’t sharing more than is necessary.

WHERE you shop

Some important tips regarding the sources for making online purchases.

  • Secure Sites. Any reputable company will understand that website security is important. The clearest way to do that is to check for an updated SSL Certificate. When you look at the URL, it should start with “https” instead of “http.”
  • Brand Phishing. Holiday emails are flowing into inboxes right now. Watch for emails and sites that might be spoofing well-known brands to capture your personal information. 
  • Clicks. Don’t click links or download attachments unless you are certain where they came from. If you are unsure if it’s legitimate, you can try typing the URL into your web browser instead of clicking on the link.

HOW you shop

Some important tips regarding the payment methods you use for online purchases.

  • Saving Payment Information. Don’t do it. Experts suggest you never allow your computer or mobile device to save the number and other details for you. The convenience isn’t worth the risk.
  • Credit vs. Debit. If you can, use a credit card instead of a debit card. There are laws that limit your liability for fraudulent credit card purchases. And because debit cards draw money directly from your bank account, fraudulent charges could leave you with insufficient funds for other bills.
  • Personal Data. Supply as little personal data as you can. There is almost never a reason you’ll need to provide your social security number. But even other information that isn’t as sensitive, like phone numbers, may be optional. If you aren’t required to provide it, leave it blank.
  • Passwords. Always set up strong passwords that are long and have no personal ties to you. To make them even more secure, change them often. Consider using a password manager to help.
  • Keep Track. It’s easy to get in the swing of your holiday shopping and not remember what you ordered until your packages arrive. However, you should take note of each online order. This will allow you to accurately keep track of your credit card and bank statements to spot fraudulent charges.
Final holiday shopping reminder

During this time of year, it is especially important that all individuals are proactive about cybersecurity. We have provided a few simple things you can do to help make your holiday shopping more secure. Educate yourself, your family, and your friends about the risks and safety measures to make sure your holiday season stays happy!

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