Don’t let Black Friday be a dark day for online security

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10 tips to help you stay safe while shopping online this Black Friday.

24 November 2017

Black Friday and Cyber Monday, has retailers lowering prices and creating promotions to tempt us to part with our hard-earned cash, and deals have been appearing at least a week in advance.

Unfortunately, as with any major event, cybercriminals will also grab the opportunity to make more money with fraudulent phishing emails, scams and fake websites. 

Data breaches, such as the one reported recently by retailer Forever 21, can expose your personal information and payment card data. 

So stay vigilant and follow these 10 tips:

  1.  If you see a promotional offer in an email or in search results that’s too good to be true, then it probably is. Finding an item from an unrecognised vendor with the best price and immediate shipping is cause for concern. Limit your online shopping to websites of online retailers that you recognise and trust.

  2. Always look for the padlock and the https:// at the beginning of the website address, which indicates that communication between you and the site is encrypted and any data you send can’t be seen by anyone intercepting the traffic.

  3. Don’t make purchases while using public Wi-Fi networks, as they are indeed “public.” Hackers can lurk on public networks and intercept traffic or redirect you to sites that may look like the one you expected but are fake. Also, in public places, someone can look over your shoulder and copy your password and account information as you type it in.

  4. If you need to make a purchase when not on a secure Wi-Fi location (such as your home), utilise your cell phone’s mobile network instead. Using your cell phone’s mobile network provides a private internet connection.

  5. When paying for items, use secure services like Apple Pay, Android Pay, PayPal or other trusted payment methods. Never use a debit or credit card that is linked to your primary bank account. If you are using a credit card, make sure it has a low spending limit to reduce the risk of fraud.

  6. Be cautious of email offers. Cybercriminals can create elaborate phishing campaigns that look like those of a trusted brand, but actually take you to a fake site. Instead, open a browser and type the website address in yourself.

  7. Never over-share personal data. If you don’t purchase often from a retailer, checkout as a guest rather than creating an account. Reducing the number of places storing your data will help reduce your risk of being affected by a breach.

  8. If you do create an account, choose to protect it with two-step authentication. This ensures that in addition to requiring a password when logging in, the website will text a code to your mobile phone for you to verify your identity.

  9. Review bank and credit card statements to ensure your account has not been compromised. If your bank offers the ability, you should “opt-in” to smartphone notifications of any transactions that are made.

  10. Keep your devices up to date and have security software installed and fully operational. Software updates fix known vulnerabilities, so be sure to install them when prompted.

Combining these tips with good old-fashioned common sense, and security software such as ESET Internet Security for Windows or ESET Cyber Security Pro for Mac, will help you stay safe and enjoy your shopping.