Holiday Cybersecurity for Shopping
As we prepare for the holiday season, it’s important to take a moment to realize the importance of holiday cybersecurity. While we may get caught up in the good feeling of the season, there is always someone out there who wants to Grinch our good vibes.
Watch Online Safety Tips for the Holidays
Why Hackers Choose The Holidays
Let’s start our understanding of holiday cyber security with why attackers choose this time of the year to strike. The main reason scams and attacks tick up is because American spending increases in the last two months of the year.
During the holidays, people typically shift their buying habits. Instead of trying to pay bills, buy groceries, and make car payments - consumers look to buy gifts and go on vacation. This change in buying habits leads us to spend money with retailers that we normally don’t.
It’s that change that scammers want to capitalize on. They hope we don’t catch them because we are too busy trying to find the right gift or get the best deal. They want us to be so distracted that we don’t see a fake URL or look too hard at fake social media ad. In other words, they think we are too inundated with ads and the pressure of gift buying that we overlook basic security steps.
Avoiding Ads on Social Media
While fake ads run on social media throughout the year, this holiday season they’ve been especially successful. I know three very intelligent people who have fallen for scam ads on Facebook. One person even verified the deal by going to the website, which looked legitimate, and even got a (generic) confirmation email.
On the surface, this appeared to be a real company selling a known product for a believable deal. The point is that these scams have gotten better and it’s harder to decipher which ones are real.
My advice is to avoid clicking on any shopping ads on social media this holiday season. It’s not worth the risk. If you see a deal you like, try and find it via Google or on a site that you trust. This leads us to our next holiday cyber security tip.
Shop At Trusted Sites
Shopping online is a huge part of our culture during the holidays. I don’t want to hurt small or local businesses, but until social media sites can fix their fake ads problem we need to shop at sites in which we have experience. This means we need to order from sites that we know like Amazon, Walmart, and Academy Sports.
As I mentioned earlier, scam sites look legitimate most likely because they are using real templates from website builders like WordPress or online shops like Shopify. These larger companies may not realize they are being used by scammers until they are long gone with everyone’s money.
Unless you have shopped there before, keep your shopping on a website you know. This will keep your credit card and personal information from being compromised.
Phishing scams are nothing new, but they do see a serious increase during the holiday shopping season. Why, well just like before, our habits change. Retailers are drowning us in deals sent to our inboxes. Scammers want us to see an email that looks just real enough to get us to open it.
To stay safe online, avoid opening deal emails in general. In fact, as I write this article, I have a scam email sitting in my inbox. It’s from a sender whose name is very close to a legitimate business that I deal with frequently.
My clue was that the website was different - not wrong, but different. I think the site they are sending from is a legitimate website domain, it’s just a domain wanting me to believe they are someone else. So question any business emails you get right now until the beginning of next year.
Update Your Software
While it may not seem important to you, updating your software is a big step in keeping yourself safe online. Whether you are holiday shopping or not, keeping your phone, laptop, and tablet on the latest version of the software is an easy step to keep your devices safe.
Many updates include security upgrades. Companies like Apple and Microsoft see digital threats pop up and then push updates that solve those issues. It may be annoying to keep your devices current, but it’s worth it in the end.
Keep an eye out for notifications of updates on your devices. Several times this year Apple has pushed critical security updates for iOS 16 and iOS 17. Those updates need to be completed the day they are released to minimize your chances of being affected by an exploit or virus.
Using a Virtual Private Network
I’m a strong believer in online privacy which is why I frequently use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. This service allows me to hide my location and IP address from websites I don’t want to have access to that data. A VPN can also protect you while using public or hotel wifi.
NordVPN is an outstanding service that offers robust security, seamless remote access, anonymity, high-speed performance, extensive server locations, reliable customer support, and user-friendly features. It is an essential tool for individuals seeking a safe, private, and efficient online experience.
Many people like me use a VPN simply to keep from being tracked by advertisers. Our privacy is slipping away every day and NordVPN can help you maintain your online privacy. NordVPN offers The Secure Dad community 59% off a two-year plan plus 3 extra months!
Is a VPN going to make you invisible or bulletproof online? No. But it will help you keep a level of privacy that website hosts would rather you not have. It’s no one's business where you shop online this holiday season and a VPN will help you.
Conclusion: Holiday Cyber Security Tips
I hope you have a joyful holiday season. I want these holiday cybersecurity tips to help keep you in the giving spirit. Not only are these good for the holidays, but they will help keep you safe online all year long.