Holiday Online Shopping
While millions of Americans will be looking for the best deals the internet has to offer, cyber criminals will be hard at work looking to target online shopper.
The holiday shopping season is here, and while millions of Americans will be looking for the best deals the internet has to offer, cyber criminals will be hard at work looking to target online shoppers. The holiday shopping season is a prime opportunity for bad actors to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers through fake websites, malicious links, and even fake charities. Their goal is simple: get a hold of your personal and financial information to compromise your data, insert malicious software, steal your identity and take your money.
At CISA, we are committed to helping Americans better protect themselves online. This holiday shopping season, we’re here to provide a few easy steps to prevent you from becoming a victim of cyber-crime.
Using strong passwords, updating your software, thinking before you click on suspicious links, and turning on multi-factor authentication are the basics of what we call “cyber hygiene” and will drastically improve your online safety.
Here are the 4 common sense ways to protect yourself online:
- Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) on your accounts and make it much less likely you’ll get hacked.
- Update your software. In fact, turn on automatic updates.
- Think before you click. Most successful cyber-attacks start with a phishing email.
- Use strong passwords, and ideally a password manager to generate and store unique passwords.
Check Your Devices
Before making any online purchases, make sure the device you’re using to shop online is up-to-date. Next, take a look at your accounts and ask, do they each have strong passwords? And even better, if multi-factor authentication is available, are you using it?
Multi-factor authentication (or two-factor authentication), uses multiple pieces of information to verify your identity. Even if an attacker obtains your password, they may not be able to access your account if it’s protected by this multiple step verification process.
Protect Your Devices
Protect your devices by keeping the software up-to-date. These include items like mobile phones, computers, and tablets, but also appliances, electronics, and children’s toys.
Change Your Password
Once you’ve purchased an internet connected device, change the default password and use different and complex passwords for each one. Consider using a password manager to help.
Check Your Settings
Check the devices’ privacy and security settings to make sure you understand how your information will be used and stored. Also make sure you’re not sharing more information than you want or need to provide.
Update Your Software
Enable automatic software updates where applicable, as running the latest version of software helps ensure the manufacturers are still supporting it and providing the latest patches for vulnerabilities.
Shop Only Through Trusted Sources
Think about how you’re searching online. How are you finding the deals? Are you clicking on links in emails or going to trusted vendors? Are you clicking on ads on webpages? You wouldn’t go into a store with boarded up windows and without signage – the same rules apply online. If it looks suspicious, something’s probably not right.
You wouldn’t go into a store with boarded up windows and without signage – the same rules apply online. If it looks suspicious, something's probably not right.
Interact with reputable vendors
Before providing any personal or financial information, make sure that you are interacting with a reputable, established vendor.
Verify business legitimacy
Some attackers may try to trick you by creating malicious websites that appear to be legitimate. Always verify the legitimacy before supplying any information. If you’ve never heard of it before, check twice before handing over your information.
Beware of phishing emails
Most of us receive emails from retailers about special offers during the holidays. Cyber criminals will often send phishing emails—designed to look like they’re from retailers—that have malicious links or that ask for you to input your personal or financial information.
Don't click links or download attachments
Don’t click links or download attachments unless you’re confident of where they came from. If you’re unsure if an email is legitimate, type the URL of the retailer or other company into your web browser as opposed to clicking the link.
Never provide your password
Never provide your password, or personal or financial information in response to an unsolicited email. Legitimate businesses will not email you asking for this information.
Make sure your information is being encrypted
All reputable merchants use encryption to transmit information from your browser to their servers. Look in your browser’s location bar to make sure the website address begins with “https:” instead of “http:”. Also, ensure the padlock icon is locked.
Use Safe Methods for Purchasing
Use a credit card as opposed to a debit card
There are laws to limit your liability for fraudulent credit card charges, but you may not have the same level of protection for your debit cards. Unauthorized charges could leave you with insufficient funds to pay other bills.
Check your statements frequently
You’ll likely make more purchases over the holiday season, be sure to check your credit card and bank statements for any fraudulent charges frequently. Immediately, notify your bank or financial institution.
Be wary of emails requesting personal information
Attackers may attempt to gather information by sending emails requesting that you confirm purchase or account information. Legitimate businesses will not solicit this type of information through email. Do not provide sensitive information via email.
If you receive a suspicious email that you think may be a phishing scam, you can report it.