Several major sites including Spotify, SoundCloud, and AirBnB responded to issues as a result of a DDoS attack the Dyn system last week. This attack leads us into a holiday season where online shoppers and their favorite online stores will be a major target for in coming months.
There's no need to panic, but it is necessary for you to approach this holiday shopping season with caution and secure your online accounts to protect the information you give out to make an online transaction.
Here are five cyber security tips all online shoppers should implement as they shop.
1. Keep your device up-to-date
Only 18% of internet users in a poll said they update their software when prompted to do so. A computer with outdated antivirus software is exceptionally vulnerable to potential attacks which often come as a result of online activity. Although losing your computer to a virus would be bad enough, hackers are now able to access the contents of your computer to hold your personal information hostage using ransomware until you pay up. Moral of the story? Update your computer's security software!
You should receive prompts to update your security software on a regular basis. When you get one of these prompts, be sure to update as soon as possible.
2. Protect your email account
Most online purchasing platforms will require you to enter an email address as part of your login credentials. Hackers have become savvy to the fact that most online shoppers use the same email address for online shopping accounts that they use for their bank accounts and social media profiles. This is why it is important to protect your email account at all costs.
One sort of depressing but effective way to look at it is to assume your email information will be stolen, but make it completely useless to potential hackers by taking certain security measures.
The first security measure you should take is to protect your account with two-factor authentication. The next step you could take is to be extra careful and encrypt your email correspondence. This will help protect the communication coming in and out of your account to ensure hackers can't access the personal information you might be sending in regards to finances, health records, and other potentially sensitive topics.
3. Vary login information
Another important part of protecting all of your online accounts against hackers is to vary the information you use for your login credentials. We've discussed how hackers can use your email to access multiple accounts, but we mainly dived into how to protect your email account. Now it's time to talk about an effective way to protect all of your other accounts.
By using a different email address and password for the different accounts you create online, you can throw potential hackers off course if they are able to hack into one account. Diversifying your login credentials with strong passwords will be the most important part. Experts recommend using passwords that are phrases to create super safe login credentials.
4. Use secure payment methods
Payment information is one of the most commonly stolen bits of information thieves go after during the holiday season. One way you can protect your payment information specifically is to stick to secure payment methods. For a lot of sites, this might mean using the PayPal option or secure checkout for your specific credit card company if either of those things are provided. If those are not options, PC World recommends using a disposable credit card number or perhaps a prepaid credit card. At the very least, it's recommended to use a credit card rather than a debit card for online transactions as it is typically easier to identify and reverse stolen funds on a credit card balance than it is to do so on a debit card where they've actually taken the money in your account.
5. Scope out reviews
Finally, if you're using a new site to purchase something, check out the reviews before you purchase. Are there any complaints of missing orders or mysterious charges popping up prior to purchase from other customers? If so, you might want to steer clear of this retailer and purchase the item elsewhere.
If you are not familiar with the site's name at all, be sure you don't restrict your research to comments and reviews on the site alone. Look at various review websites and not just one, as some companies go as far as posting fake reviews to gain your trust. Check out the company's Facebook feed. Look at the comments left on the page as well as comments left on posts. Check the company's response time on Facebook to see if they are able to quickly give responses to concerned customers.
If the site seems untrustworthy you might want to abandon the shopping cart all together, but you could also run a quick Google search to see if customers have talked about the company on forums and/or to check its BBB grade.
Hopefully, these tips will help you navigate the waters of cyber security more effectively as you shop online. If you have any questions or even a tip of your own, comment below!