Computer open, card at the ready, eyes firmly on the mega online prizes. Yep, Monday 26th November 2018 - aka Cyber Monday is going to be one hell of a hit. 2018 is your time to shine and you shall be king or queen of Christmas present purchasing.
But just before you start filling your virtual Santa sack, we need your attention for a cyber minute….
Whilst the introduction of Cyber Monday’s discounted dreamland is fantastic for taking advantage of super deals - not to mention finally gaining that big screen tv you’ve been lusting after since the beginning of the year - don’t forget that with such greatly discounted goods comes even greater responsibility.
Keeping your personal information safe and secure
Because sitting behind that glossy technicolour screen lay a whole host of black hat hackers just waiting to get their hacking hands on your priceless details. Cyber Monday can quickly transform into Terrifying Tuesday if it’s not just the deals being taken advantage of.
With this in mind, here are some top tips to help you stay safe when shopping online once Cyber Monday comes rolling around.
Make sure your shopping portal is secure
Cyber Monday is the most lucrative 24 hours of the year for online companies. With over 5.5 million social media mentions, it’s a pretty big deal. However, with more than 30 million malicious links being fired across social media each day, it’s a big day for cyber attackers too.
Which means that first and foremost, it’s important to ensure your shopping space is secure, using a computer that’s safely protected by antivirus software. Skip this step and you’ll be much more likely to end up with complications courtesy of rogue malware. So not what you want when picking up the latest Lamaze toy for little Rosie’s first Christmas.
And if browsing from your mobile device? Avoid public Wi-Fi and be sure to keep your operating system up to date. Otherwise, you run the risk of hackers stealing any data that you excitedly type in. This can include credit card details and bank account info.
Shop using a secure connection
Don’t start your day of purchasing with anything less than a secure connection. Why? It’s a pretty surefire way of protecting your payment information.
Any genuine online shop will use secure technology such as SSL - Secure Socket Layer, as a way to encrypt your personal details and payment card information when you hit the checkout button. This stops hackers from getting their malicious fingers on your data. Look out for the padlock symbol in the address bar, a valid certification - by clicking on this padlock and seeing who has registered the site, and a green address bar. Green means go, after all.
Avoid search engines...
… like the plague. This is the perfect breeding ground for cyber attackers. In fact, in 2015, spokesperson for EnigmaSoftware.com, Ryan Gerding stated:
“There are bad guys who are particularly sophisticated and can make it so that pretty high up in the Google search results there might be a page that promises a ridiculously low price for an Xbox, and someone might click on that and in turn get an infection when they do.”
If you’re looking for those ‘of the season’ boots, make sure to conduct your search via Amazon, Etsy or eBay rather than search sites like Google or Yahoo to avoid any malicious links.
Unique passwords are your friend
As you swipe your card through the portal of retail nirvana, basking in the glow of 75% offs and half price here’s and there's, make sure to enter a unique password as part of the logging in process. We know, we know, how are you supposed to remember every unique password? And in the rush of an “I need to get it first” type of purchase scenario, time is of course of the essence.
But one of the best ways for a less than ethical hacker to gain access to your personal information is to steal your password and enter it on other sites. So, it’s worth spending the extra time and brain space to create one that’s hard to steal. Make your password as long as you can whilst being able to retain it, and mix it up with upper and lower-case characters, symbols and a number or two for good measure.
Be mindful when it comes to installing software on your mobile
As is the way with this current online shopping era we are all logging onto, mobile devices see a big chunk of the money-saving action.
When it comes to downloading the app for your chosen store, make sure to do it from the official one such as the iTunes App Store and the store for Google Play. With around 24,000 malicious mobile apps being blocked every day, you can only imagine the increase when Cyber Monday comes calling. If you seek to download your shopping app from elsewhere, you may well be inviting malicious into your shopping basket.
Use your intuition
We hate to be all cliché, but if you stumble across a deal that seems too good to be true, then chances it, it probably is. From click-baiting, spear phishing and hijacking those all-important hashtags, Cyber Monday hackers will utilise a range of methods to get your personal info. Don’t click on any flashy deals sent via social media, text, email or a pop-up browser window. Head straight to the direct sites instead. You can even bookmark these to make sure you end up shopping at the real deal. Fake imitations are not the name of the Cyber Monday shopping game.
And whilst of course, we understand the adrenalin rush when something is being advertised as ‘the last one’, it’s always a good idea to take a step back from the frenzy, taking a few extra seconds to hover your cursor over links. Misspellings, incorrect handles and dodgy email addresses are a big red hacking flag.
Cyber Monday is a goldmine for potential deals but it’s also a goldmine for cyber attackers too. Make sure to take extra care when scouring the net, taking all of the necessary precautions to keep yourself safe.
Now whilst the flashy promise of Cyber Monday shops reels in black hat hackers and deceptive tactics aplenty, it’s important to also understand that there are people out there in the ether trying their best to protect you from these sorts of unsafe situations.
And these shopping superheroes come in the form of certified ethical hackers. With the combination of the above tips and noble white hat hackers working tirelessly to keep your details safe, you should be able to enjoy Cyber Monday for the frenzied purchasing joy that it is.
And if you fancy joining the ranks of ethical hackers, or finding out what else we can help you to uncover in the world of Cyber Security education, get in touch with our career consultants today. Let us guide you to help others stay safe.