U.S. consumers are expected to spend over $2 billion US online on Monday as the nation takes to the web to source the best deals on holiday gifts. However, in all of the excitement it could be very easy to fall prey to spammers, scammers and malware.
Indeed, two thirds of retailers claim to have seen an increase in internet fraud or other types of attacks on websites during high-volume days such as Cyber Monday and as consumers are focused more on looking for a good deal than for suspicious activity, it’s easy to understand why the cyberattacking fraternity pick the Monday after Thanksgiving for trying to snare web users.
A common tactic is to take advantage of what security software firmHotspotshield.com calls “Cyber Monday Tunnel Vision” by offering “too-good-to-be-true” deals that when clicked upon either launch malware or are a front for harvesting personal data. To make sure you don’t get caught out, always make sure the padlock emblem is displayed in the web browser and that the site’s address begins https rather than http when entering personal or financial information.
Up to date
But protecting yourself starts before launching a web browser. Make sure that all software is fully up to date and that any security patches have been downloaded and installed. Likewise, make sure that anti-virus software is installed and enabled.
Lock down the network
Make sure your Wi-Fi network isn’t vulnerable. If it’s still using the default password, change it to something else and make sure that if it has a firewall, that it is activated.
Trust is key
Once online, stick to reputable sites, whether they’re those of the big-box retailers, trusted niche players or online giants such as Amazon and eBay.
Ok, it could mean missing out on a bargain, but it could also mean missing out on having your identity stolen or your computer compromised. If you’re looking for something that isn’t always readily available on mainstream sites, hotspot shield recommends checking that a site has a third-party seal of approval badge from a company like McAfee, Bizrate or TRUSTe and that checkout pages clearly display the padlock emblem and https in the URL.
Safety in numbers
Make sure that you’re using a unique password for each site or online service you log into and that in every case the password is also different from the one used to access emails and banking services.
Also, make certain that the passwords are not words taken from the dictionary and instead feature numbers, upper and lower case characters, symbols and punctuation marks. Sophos Labs has an excellent videodetailing how to create strong passwords.
Credit, cards and PayPal offer better protection against fraud than other forms of payment. A PayPal transaction can be cancelled and in most cases credit card purchases over a certain value are insured.
No public hotspots
Public wifi hotspots are just that — for the public at large. And using one can be akin to shouting sensitive information across a crowded room. If you must shop on the move and use wifi to do it, shut down all apps and stick to the browser. Make sure that all file-sharing permissions are disabled.