Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner, and that means consumers across America will soon be in a shopping frenzy. Scoring the best deals on holiday gifts is awesome and all, but don’t let the shopping mania distract you from retail cyber security.
Billions of dollars in sales were attributed to the holiday shopping weekend in 2015. “$10.4 billion was attributed to in-store sales and $5.77 billion to online sales,” according to Christopher Burgess. This is good news for cyber criminals, who see the shopping surge as a perfect opportunity to steal money and information from consumers. We’ve come up with the top 7 helpful tips to protect against cybercrime, so no hackers ruin your holiday.
(image curtesy of Google images)
1. Don’t shop on public Wi-Fi
Though it can save you some money on your data plan, using a public Wi-Fi network to shop or compare prices while in-store can be risky. Wi-Fi networks in places like coffee shops are not as secure as your home network, and many hackers are using fake Wi-Fi hotspots to steal bank account credentials and other sensitive information. Look out for hotspots with “free” in the title, or that use store names when there is no branch of the store nearby.
For example, hackers may label the hotspots as “FreePublicWiFi” or “TargetGuestWiFi,” though there is no nearby Target store.
According to IT World, “Even short access to a malicious network may give a hacker enough information to later access bank accounts, social media accounts or corporate accounts.”
If possible, use a VPN to lower your risk of cyber theft.
2. Monitor your bank statements
You should always be monitoring your bank statements for suspicious activity, but it is especially important during the holiday season. Look out for small “test” charges of ten dollars or less on common items like groceries or gas. These charges are used by hackers to test credit card information, and often go overlooked by users.
3. Careful with your cards
When possible, you should always use the chip in your credit or debit card versus the swipe function. The reason chip cards take those unfortunate few seconds longer at the point-of-sale is because they have an extra layer of security. Contact your bank if they have not yet supplied you with an EMT chip card.
(image curtesy of Buzzfeed)
RFID cards (those cards that let you simply tap the card reader to pay for your purchase), while convenient, pose a security threat. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification, meaning nearby hackers can scan for your card’s data. You can buy RFID wallets and RFID card holders to protect your card’s information.
4. Beware of fake apps
Fake apps are on the rise this year, with hackers creating fake apps to look identical to real ones, allowing cyber criminals to spy on you and steal your data.
According to IT World, “RiskIQ found more than 1,000 Black Friday-specific apps that were malicious or that could be used to trick a user into downloading malware or giving up login credentials or credit card information.”
Always download apps directly from the Google or Apple app store, and examine the developer of an app before you download.
5. Watch out for phishing
Phishing attacks are more common during the holiday, so be alert to fake websites and malicious emails. That new message in your inbox could truly be 75% off coupon from your favorite store, but it could also be Ransomware. Use caution when clicking links, and stick to familiar sites that you know are trustworthy.
“When visiting shopping sites on the web, look for the "s" in HTTPS when you visit; without the S there could be weak encryption,” said IT World.
If you don’t have one already, install an ad-block before you shop, for further protection.
6. Research that IoT gift you got (or got for someone else)
Recent and massive DDoS attacks have shown us that not all IoT devices are safe. Before you buy an IoT device as a gift, check the device’s brand. Cheaper, unsecure brands led to these cyberattacks and they could leave homes unsecure as well. Do your research before you buy.
If you received an IoT device as a gift, immediately change the default username and password. If possible, it is also smart to put your IoT devices on a Wi-Fi network separate from the one you use for your computer and phone.
Your password should be different for every retail site you use. The more complex, the better. If you’re having trouble keeping track of all your passwords, you can use programs like Dashlane or Lastpass to organize them.