Hackers are no strangers to the fact that online holiday shopping is going to reach record levels this year. They know it’s the perfect opportunity to exploit unsuspecting consumers who are looking to find the best deals. Keep these computer security tips in mind to stay ahead of the crooks.
6 Ways to Ensure Computer Security while Shopping Online
1. Recognize Counterfeit Emails
Cybercriminals have become experts at masquerading as legitimate retailers to entice people to download malware. They’ll send you an email that looks as if it’s from a company advertising a great deal, but when you click a link or open an attachment, malware will instantly infect your computer.
Common warning signs of counterfeit, spoof emails include:
- Spelling and grammatical errors
- Requests for personal information/money
- An offer that sounds too good to be true
- Suspicious-looking URLs
One final note on spoof emails: banks will never request personal information from you via email. Even if the email looks 100 percent legitimate, it’s not. They’ll contact you through physical mail or request that you sign into your account, but not ask for information directly.
Always report any suspicious emails claiming to be from your bank to the bank as well as the police.
2. Don’t Shop on your Work Computer
It may be tempting to make a few purchases during a slow day at work, but it’s a bad idea. If, by chance, you end up falling victim to a cyberattack, both your work information and personal information will be stolen. Your entire work network may become infected, too, leading to a cybersecurity disaster. Limit shopping to your personal devices only.
3. Steer Clear of Social Media Scams
Hackers have been using social media to spread malware for years, yet people still fall for it. If someone tags you in a strange Facebook photo about saving 90 percent on Ray-Ban sunglasses or something similar, avoid it. They’ve most likely been hacked, and their account is being used to continue spreading malware.
4. Update your Security Software
Outdated antiviruses and firewalls are easily exploited by new cyberattacks. Keeping your software up-to-date at all times is one of the easiest computer security best practices to follow.
5. Use Secure Websites Only
Reputable retail websites are SSL-enabled, meaning that the data transferred back and forth between your computer and their network is encrypted. You can tell a website is secure by looking for a little padlock or “https” in the address bar of your web browser. Never purchase from sites that don’t have it.
6. Refresh your Passwords
After you’ve done a bit of shopping, it’s a good idea to update your passwords, in case someone guesses them or one of the online retailers you’ve purchased from is breached. Be sure to set strong, complex passwords that are hard to crack, and never use the same one for two different accounts.
Nothing ruins the holidays quite like a stolen identity. Follow these computer security tips when you’re shopping online to help prevent running into any issues.