We see it every year, as soon as the holiday season comes around there is a huge influx of hacks and scams. Cybercriminals know people are busy, distracted, and spending extra money. What a perfect time to try and catch someone with their guard down.
Another area they target more during this time of year - people's generosity. Many people spend more than normal on others. It could be donating to charities or helping that neighbor who is down on their luck.
That's why it's especially important for you to stay one step ahead, here's where to start.
1. Update your operating system, running regular scans and updates
This is your first line of defense, if Apple or Microsoft find serious security flaws, they send out patches for your computers. Set up your anti-virus program to scan your device regularly and to receive updates automatically. Less work for you.
Oh, and don't forget to update all your devices like phones, tablets, and routers as they too need the latest software to keep you safe.
2. Avoid clicking on links in "suspicious or unsolicited" emails
If you didn't request it or it seems a little odd, treat it like it's the plague. Don't open, click, or download attachments. This is how many people become victims.
Also, look out for very "real" looking malicious emails. The sender's name might look familiar but the address seems off with misspellings or odd extensions. Or the content of the email might look like it's from your bank, hoping you don't notice.
Pro-Tip - Use Quad9 DNS security settings to keep you safe from known fake websites! I know, that sounds scary but it's not, here are the steps to set it up.
3. Be cautious of links found in social media messages, including on Facebook and Twitter, that seem to be coming from a friend
On social media, it's easy for criminals to disguise links. And if you think it's from a friend, you are more likely to trust it and click it. Next thing you know you get a virus. If it's out of character for your friend to send you a link be extra cautious.
Pro-Tip - Social media ads could be malicious too. Facebook was caught selling ads to someone who was spreading malware in political ads!
4. Do your online shopping at home to avoid public Wi-Fi
You need to treat public Wi-Fi like it has a bad cold and you don't want to get it. Yes, sometimes it's necessary to stand close to someone who's sick, but you sure aren't going to hug them!
The same goes for Wi-Fi, shopping online while using a public connection is like giving that sick person a hug, you are much more likely to get sick. Well, in this case much more likely to have a hacker steal your account information.
5. Change passwords for each online retailer
With all the corporate breaches, it's just not worth it. If you use the same username/password combination everywhere, if one goes down, all your accounts are now compromised.
Need help crafting the safest password? I've got you covered, click here!
6. Enable credit card alerts for large purchases charged to your account
Most credit card companies (and some debit) have a way for you to set up email or text alerts. You make a preset limit and if a purchase goes above it, you get an alert. When setting yours, think about what a "normal" charge is for you.
Yes, if you go out and buy a new TV, you will get an alert (that's the point!). You just don't want to set it too low so if you buy a cup of coffee, your phone blows up.
7. Make one folder for your email that collects your email receipts
If you can opt-in for email receipts, it's very useful. Every transaction, real or fraudulent, is there and you can stay on top of your accounts. I set mine up so all of them are sorted in my inbox, automatically, to one folder. One stop shopping!
Now I don't want to scare you, but these threats are real and can cost you dearly. These are the best tips to keep you safe this holiday season and into the New Year.