Holiday Shopping Security Tips for Consumers

Friday, December 02, 2016

Dan Ross

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Cyber Monday kicked off a month of great deals for consumers and high profits for online retailers. Unfortunately, this time of the year also offers hackers different ways to launch cyber-attacks, steal information, and compromise devices. Around Cyber Monday in 2015, hackers figured out how to steal information from the popular VTech toys that were used by 6.4 million children. In 2013, a data breach that started around Black Friday compromised 40 million credit cards used at Target stores. Consumers are targets for hackers but they can protect themselves from online threats while they shop by using the tips below.

1. Use Strong Passwords

The ideal way to shop on an ecommerce site is without an account because that prevents websites from storing credit card data and personal information. However, online retailers often offer incentives like coupons and free shipping for people to create an account on their websites. Consumers who create user accounts on ecommerce sites should use a strong password to secure their information. Hackers can now use automated algorithms to crack passwords, and easy passwords can be deciphered within minutes. Consumers should use a case-sensitive password that include numbers and symbols. Consumers should also avoid using obvious passwords based on birth dates and the names of family members or pets.

2. Update Anti-Virus Software

Everyone is guilty of pushing off a security update for a more convenient time. However, consumers should make sure their anti-virus software is up to date before they start shopping online on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Updated security software prevents hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities that would allow them to infect devices with malware or steal credit card details.

3. Enable Two-Step Verification

An easy two-step verification method consumers can use is verification through a text message code. By enabling two-step verification on sensitive accounts, consumers can add an extra layer of security that hackers will need to get around. Sensitive accounts include primary email addresses, and online credit card and bank accounts.

4. Ignore Untrustworthy Emails

Consumers will be expecting to get a bunch of emails from online retailers before and after Cyber Monday. These emails will include Cyber Monday deals and coupons, and order confirmation numbers. Hackers may try to capitalize on this flood of emails by sending consumers phishing emails that contain malicious links. Scammers might also email links to fraudulent customer surveys under the guise of asking consumers about their shopping experience. The scammers will hope that unsuspecting consumers will fill out the survey with their login credentials, which will then give hackers access to their personal information. To avoid this, consumers should ignore emails that look suspicious or untrustworthy.

5. Monitor Credit Card Statements

During and after the holiday shopping season, consumers should monitor their credit card statements for suspicious activity. Consumers should go through their transaction statements to make sure that no fraudulent charges have appeared.

Online retailers can also increase the security of their networks by following endpoint security best practices this holiday shopping season. A well-timed DDoS attack conducted by sophisticated hackers can bring down an ecommerce site on heavy shopping days, which would deeply impact profits. A massive data breach could ruin an online retailer’s reputation. To combat these cyber threats, online retailers should scan their networks for malware before the holiday shopping weekend even begins. Retailers should also continuously be on the lookout for suspicious activity on their networks, like unauthorized users and software. By taking extra security precautions, consumers and online retailers alike can avoid becoming the victims of a breach this holiday season.

About the author: Dan Ross is CEO and President of Promisec

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