The holidays are finally upon us! This means lighter work schedules, frantic retail workers, fantastic online sales, and hundreds of cyber-criminals raring to take advantage of it all. In the midst of scrolling through online shopping websites in search of the perfect gift for your mom and her dogs, you should take a minute to think about the security of your personal online shopping accounts before making a purchase. We’ve compiled five crucial steps you can take to protect your accounts and devices against hacks by cyber criminals. Santa isn’t the only one trying to break in!
Many Internet users have one password set across multiple accounts, making the users themselves one of the top risk factors of online security breaches. We’ve written an entire blog article to point out the top five worst practices in password creation, and password simplicity and repetition are at the top of the list.
In addition to implementing multiple-factor authentication, which is elaborated on in the aforementioned blog article, you should be making an effort to use unique passwords on each of your accounts, using numbers, symbols, and a minimum length of 10 digits. In addition, changing your passwords two or three times per year will also decrease the likelihood of someone with ill intentions getting their hands on the right one.
Data encryption isn’t just for sensitive data files; you can also encrypt your smartphone to protect your passwords, contacts, and digital cash cards and payment applications. Password protection on a mobile device is similar to a door: even if you don’t have the right key to unlock it, there’s still the potential for a persistent cybercriminal to break it down. Encryption acts as the mesh screen behind the door, obscuring the crook’s view of your information and personal data. Check out this article to learn how to encrypt iPhones, iPads, and Android smartphones and tablets.
Odds are, you have at least one antivirus software installed on your computer, and whether you know it or not, your computer also likely came with a defragmentation application as well. Defragmenting your personal computer (as well as your professional devices) will not only give your device’s speed a substantial boost, but it can also increase the speed of your antivirus program, neatly organizing your storage data and allowing the antivirus software to scan over them more efficiently.
In addition to defragmenting, it’s also a good idea to use a PC cleaning program like CCleaner beforehand to remove junk files, browser history, and potentially harmful add-ons and the like to speed up the defragmentation process.
It goes without saying that putting any cash card information onto your computer is risky at any level. Using a secure money transfer service like PayPal will allow you to make purchases online without allowing the website and seller to directly view your card information, as well as providing purchase protection in the event that there is a problem with your order.
In the event that a website or seller does not accept PayPal as a method of payment, it is safer to pay with a credit card rather than a debit card, as they allow for a few days of buffer time between your order placement and your payment, giving you ample time to monitor for any unrecognized purchasing activity. Many credit card companies have mobile applications that can send push notifications alerting you when a purchase is made using your credit card, making easy to monitor for suspicious activity.
It is strongly advised that you do not use your credit or debit card to directly purchase from an unsecured online shopping website, as this makes it extremely easy for cyber-criminals to obtain your payment information. Try to only make online purchases from secure websites.
“Malvertising” is a super quick way to infest your device with malware. It involves pumping virus-filled clickable advertisements onto legitimate webpages in order to infect mass amounts of devices at a time. A good way to prevent yourself from accidentally clicking into malware content is to run a web filtering program. These programs are able to scan the page you’re trying to navigate to before you land on it, detecting malware content and warning you against opening the page before you can enter the site.