Have a holly, jolly, cyber-safe Christmas

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The halls are decked, the tree is up, and the presents – at least some of them – are wrapped … it really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The festive season might look a bit different this year, with ongoing coronavirus-related restrictions in many countries across the world, but one thing is still certain: Cybercriminals will be on the naughty list. Much like the Grinch, hackers and scammers will be pulling all sorts of tricks to steal Christmas, but we’ve got a few up our sleeves to protect you too:

1. Don’t let the last-minute stress get to you
While we all love giving and receiving presents, shopping for them can be stressful at the best of times, so with the additional restrictions of COVID-19, it’s an even more difficult task – with research from global insight platform Dynata finding that 20% of people are feeling stressed about Christmas this year. Unfortunately, this can make us even more vulnerable to online scams. Phishing emails promising the best deals in short time frames can be used to pressure potential victims into entering credit card details or other sensitive information. Trust your intuition: If a deal seems too good to be true, don’t click on links. Instead, go directly to the shop’s website or visit another trusted website to conduct any purchases.

2. Source tech gifts securely
As the number of tech gadgets and smart home devices increases, so too does the amount of tech under the tree. This can become expensive, which can lead many to source electronics from outlets other than official sellers – with recent research showing that nearly 1 in 10 parents were planning on gifting a secondhand phone from a family member or friend. However, there may be unintended costs to this. If the phone has not been completely reset, it can still contain files, images, and malware, putting the new recipient at risk and compromising data privacy. Professionally refurbished phones may seem like a safer option; however, even these devices may still contain trojans. If you’re gifting a mobile phone this Christmas, think about sourcing from an official seller, or if this isn’t an option, download antivirus protection such as ESET Mobile Security to protect against malware.

3. Don’t open cards if you don’t know who they’re from
Physical cards aside – which rarely contain risky links – e-cards are increasingly popular, and are likely to be doubly so this year, as they are quick and easy to send. Unfortunately, they also make it easy for scammers to impersonate your friends or family and can be sent out en masse. If you do receive an e-card, make sure not to click on any links before you verify the sender, and pay attention to the spelling of the email address, as scammers may attempt to pose as a friend or colleague.

4. Make sure gifts really are for you before opening up
Everyone loves a surprise, but a parcel notification message may not contain the excitement of an unexpected gift. Similar to online shopping scams, fraudsters often take advantage of the high numbers of people waiting on parcels and presents to arrive over the Christmas period. There are a huge number of scams that impersonate well-known shipping and delivery services and send out fake parcel tracking links, which can look extremely convincing. Once clicked on, the links enable the download of malware, or direct users to websites aiming to steal their credentials. To avoid falling for a delivery scam, keep on top of what websites you’ve ordered from and the shipping service used, and if you think it might be a surprise from Santa, you can always track your package from the website itself.