Tips to Stay Safe for Happy Online Holiday Shopping

Cheers to a cybersecure holiday season! Cyber Monday 2017 is expectedto be the biggest shopping day in U.S. history. According to a Pew Research Center survey, Americans use a wide range of digital tools and platforms to shop, and roughly 80 percent of adults purchase products online. Mobile has taken over holiday gift giving: last year, half of website visits and 30 percent of online sales were conducted via mobile devices. Gift givers are going mobile to conveniently compare products, read reviews and make purchasing decisions while out and about. Technology also ranks high on shopping lists – from new laptops and gaming systems to tablets, the latest phones and Internet of Things (IoT) devices like video cameras, toys and appliances.

Whether you are giving the gift of connectivity or using it yourself, don’t let hackers mess with the merriment. The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) reminds everyone that all devices connected to the internet – including mobile and IoT – must be protected. And young people receiving technology for the first time need to understand how to use it safely and securely. In addition, older adults must make it their mission to continue to learn about and practice good cyber hygiene.

“All tech users – especially vulnerable audiences like teens and seniors – need to take responsibility and protect themselves against cyber threats, scams and identity theft – not only during prime shopping time, but every day,” said Michael Kaiser, NCSA’s executive director. “In past years, we have seen that scammers, hackers and cybercriminals are actively on the prowl during the holidays. Stay alert for phishing emails, deals that look to good to be true and warnings about packages that can’t be delivered or orders that have problems. Continually learn about and always initiate basic safety and security practices, and you will connect with more peace of mind during the holidays and year-round.”


KEEP CLEAN MACHINES: Before searching for that perfect gift, be sure that all web-connected devices ‒ including PCs, smartphones and tablets ‒ are free from malware and infections by running only the most current versions of software and apps. LOCK DOWN YOUR LOGIN: One of the most critical things you can do in preparation for the online shopping season is to fortify your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device. Your usernames and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts like email, banking and social media. CONDUCT RESEARCH: When using a new website for your holiday purchases, read reviews and see if other customers have had positive or negative experiences with the site. WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT: Links in emails, social media posts and text messages are often how cybercriminals try to steal your information or infect your devices. PERSONAL INFORMATION IS LIKE MONEY. VALUE IT. PROTECT IT: When making a purchase online, be alert to the kinds of information being collected to complete the transaction. Make sure you think it is necessary for the vendor to request that information. Remember that you only need to fill out required fields at checkout.


GET SAVVY ABOUT WI-FI HOTSPOTS: If you are out and about, limit the type of business you conduct over open public Wi-Fi connections, including logging in to key accounts such as email and banking. Adjust the security settings on your phone to limit who can access your device. SECURE YOUR DEVICES: Use strong passwords or touch ID features to lock your devices. These security measures can help protect your information if your devices are lost or stolen and keep prying eyes out. THINK BEFORE YOU APP: Information about you, such as the games you like to play, your contacts list, where you shop and your location, has value – just like money. Be thoughtful about who gets that information and how it’s collected through apps. NOW YOU SEE ME, NOW YOU DON’T: Some stores and other locations look for devices with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth turned on to track your movements while you are within range. Disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when they’re not in use.