Our smartphones are getting smarter, making life simpler, and online shopping easier. But with smarter technology comes even smarter criminals. This holiday season, it’s important to take a moment and make sure you’re doing what you can to protect yourself from cyber fraud. So, in honor of International Computer Security Day, here are five helpful tips to shop safely this gift-giving season:
- Avoid opening scam and phishing emails
During the holidays, the average consumer receives 50 percent more emails than any other time of the year. This means scam emails can easily sneak their way into your inbox. So, while you’re getting inundated with the best deals of the season, make sure to read before you click.
Don’t open emails with suspicious subject lines, and never respond directly to anything asking for personal information like social security or bank account numbers. One of the best lines of defense against a scam? Common sense. If it sounds too good to be true or a little on the “phishy” side, that’s because it probably is.
- Shop secure and legitimate websites
Hackers often create sites that mimic legitimate ones, including a company’s logo, products, and even their URL. This means it’s essential to double-check that the site you’re potentially buying from is safe and secure. But don’t worry, there are two pretty easy ways to tell if a site is secure.
Look at this blog’s web address in your browser now. First, you should see a green padlock icon in the upper left corner, next to our blog’s web address. Second, you’ll see our URL begins with “https”. Both indicate your connection is encrypted, private, and secure.
- Create strong and unique passwords
Like most users, you likely use one password for all your accounts because it’s easier to remember. What many of us don’t realize is using the same password also makes a hacker’s job easier. Did you know that on average, it takes an inexperienced hacker less than 10 minutes to crack a weak password?
Even strong, unique passwords should never be reused between accounts. A strong password is generally 10-12 characters, with a mix of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Avoid number sequences, like “12345”, and words found in any language’s dictionary.
- Clear your browsing history, cookies and cache
Once upon a time there was an old wives’ tale that said if you cleared your computer’s browsing history, it would help the machine run faster. While that’s not necessarily true, it’s still a good idea to clear your browser’s history, cookies, and cache.
Cookies and caches store login and financial information specific to websites you visit on a regular basis. Some hackers have figured out ways to obtain personal information through these, so it’s best to be proactive and clear them on a regular basis.
- Keep your devices up to date and use a lock code
Keeping your anti-virus software updated is one easy way to protect your computer from invasive viruses, spyware, and malware. Staying on top of mobile app updates, both big and small, is another preventative measure to keep hackers out. These security updates often fix flaws or bugs that hackers could otherwise exploit.
Lastly, use a lock code on your mobile phone. Using a six-digit passcode makes it 100 times harder to guess.
We know this time of year can be busy, and let’s face it, a little stressful too. So give yourself a break and follow the helpful tips above to protect yourself from hackers this holiday season.