Last year, consumers spent about 1.5 billion dollars on Cyber Monday, up 16% from 2011. Industry experts predict this season will see even more growth. Coupled with the boom in sales is a predicted increase in the amount and severity of online scamming and data theft.
Will Pelgrin, CEO of The Center for Internet Security (CIS), a non-profit organization focused on improving the cyber-security posture of both the private and public sector, shares a few helpful tips about staying secure online this season.
1. Don’t Click on Pop-up Ads
Though it may seem obvious, malicious pop-up ads still pose one of the largest threats to web shoppers. According to Pelgrin, studies have shown that a large amount of consumers will click on the “ad” regardless of its message. Be mindful of what pop-ups say, it could be evidence of a security threat.
2. Keep Software Up-To-Date
Though many systems automatically update your software as new features become available, it’s important to keep your programs as current as possible. To avoid security holes, update apps and software minimally once a week, as newer versions appear.
3. Use Strong Passwords
An essential part of online security in any sense is using strong passwords. This means no birthdays, dog names or variations of “1234″ for any of your accounts. For help making a strong password, check out this guide: How to Create a Secure Password.
4. Install Antivirus and Anti-Spyware software
When shopping, you don’t want others to be able to track what sites you’re visiting and what information you’re entering online. If you need help choosing, check out this guide here: 5 Best Free Antivirus Software Options.
5. Enable ‘Timeouts’ on Mobile
According to Pelgrin, more and more consumers are doing the bulk of their holiday shopping on mobile phones. If you’re one of those consumers, make sure to enable a lock screen password, in case your device is lost or stolen. “If your phone isn’t timed out, you’re leaving the keys to your kingdom to whoever picks it up,” says Pelgrin.
6. Use a Secure Connection
Pelgrin recommends that any and all online financial transactions take place through a secure, private Wi-Fi connection, as opposed to using the more vulnerable free Wi-Fi in a coffee shop or library.
7. Avoid Email Advertisements
Your inbox is likely swarming with holiday promotions from all of your favorite (and likely least favorite) brands. To avoid being hacked, the CIS recommends you always enter the shop’s URL in your browser, rather than following the links contained in an email.
8. Shop at Companies You Know
Before you buy from a merchant on Amazon, Etsy or Ebay, check their rating and number of sales. Make sure they have good return policies and clearly posted contact information. If worried, you can always check on a businesses legitimacy through the Better Business Bureau.
9. Use Credit, Not Debit
“There are more security protections on your credit card that may not exist while using your debit card, should your info be taken,” says Pelgrin.
10. Ensure Your Site Is Secure
If you are entering your financial information on a webpage, make sure the URL begins with “https” as opposed to “http” or has a lock in your browser’s search bar.
11. Be Wary of Charity Sites
Though the holidays are frequently the most popular time to make donations to charity, Pelgrin urges consumers to check the legitimacy of your charity’s website.
“Fraudulent sites pop up during disasters and holidays like clockwork. Be alert,” he says.
12. Check Your Location and Privacy Settings
Many apps and websites will automatically share your GPS location by default. Sometimes, apps will change your settings once downloaded. Check what services your downloads have access to in your phone’s privacy settings.
13. Check Your Statements Frequently
According to Pelgrin, some hackers will do very low level theft once obtaining your information, charging small amounts to your credit card to avoid detection. Stay on top of your account statements and keep a record of how much you spend and where.
14. Add Browser Extensions and Security Apps
Pop-up blockers and malware detection extensions will add an extra layer to your security this season. For some free Internet security tools, check out this other article: 8 Best Free Tools for Internet Security.
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Happy Safe Shopping!
Click here to view the article source by Max Knoblauch of Mashable.
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