Consumers are poised to set record spending this holiday season. Consumer spending is over 70% of the total market, and a large portion of that happens in November and December. Nearly 80% of all consumers plan on spending online. Hackers will be waiting for consumers like crocodiles lying in wait for the gazelles to cross the river.
However, a few small steps will help you ensure that your online shopping experiences will be safe.
Use a Dedicated Computer
One of the measures to keep safe is to use a dedicated computer. If you have more than one computer or are in the process of purchasing a new computer, dedicate one computer for online banking and shopping only. Do not use this computer for anything other than online shopping. Do not download anything or use it for any other online activities. This dedicated computer will be clean and free of viruses and malware infections. You can install Google Chrome with forced HTTPS to ensure you only visit secure websites.
Use a Dedicated Email Account
A dedicated email account should also be made for the same reason. Create a new email address that you will only use for online shopping. You will limit the number of spam messages and reduce the risk of opening email links that can harm your computer. Suppose you open an account with Amazon and receive an email from Amazon on your primary email account. In that case, you know that that email on your primary account is likely spam because you know they should not have your primary email account.
Apply for a Temporary Credit Card
This will enable you to make a one-time purchase and never worry about the card being stolen or the information being compromised. A temporary credit card for online purchases only will ensure that all of your purchases will be held in only one account. Many credit card companies will give you an extra credit card for this purpose also. Additionally, some banks have virtual cards, which are like credit cards, but a random number is generated for each purpose. This prevents hackers from using your credit card number.
Be Careful What You Search For
There are poisoned search results that would lead you straight to malware that will ruin your day when using search engines. Everything about you, including passwords and usernames, can be stolen if you click on one of those poisoned links.
Cybercriminals make these poisoned links turn up in your search results. To prevent something like this from happening, use a third-party add-on for your browser. I will not endorse a specific product, but a quick Internet search will lead you to several companies that provide this add-on service for your browser.
Type In the Name Of Urls When Possible
Some criminals rely on you clicking on their links, which sometimes leads to lookalike websites that resemble the real thing. So, type in the URL for the website yourself instead of clicking on a link sent by an unknown or unfamiliar source.
Make Good Passwords
Making good Passwords are easy to do. Yet, most people, including cybersecurity professionals, get a little lazy and do not practice proper password safety measures all the time. Use a password manager. A password manager will provide secure passwords to multiple accounts. Password managers should also encrypt all of your passwords instead of using plain text. This is another excellent layer of protection. If you do not purchase a password manager, at least ensure your password meets all of the recommended password complexity (letters, numbers, symbols, length) requirements.
Be Wary of Public Wi-Fi
Lastly, do not consider any public Wi-Fi safe. Never sign in to a private account using public Wi-Fi. We suggest you do not use these connections unless you have a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN will hide your online activity and protect your IP address and personal information against cybersecurity criminals. One of the great things a VPN provides is the encryption of your digital traffic. VPNs can protect you against hackers while on a Wi-Fi network, but they are also good to use at home. And by hiding your IP address, VPNs do a great job of protecting you from the hazards of the Internet.
These are only a few of the easily adaptable measures you can take to ensure your online activity is safe and secure. Even if only one of these measures is adopted, it will go a long way to ensure you will experience safe shopping this holiday season and beyond.
Cyber Education Program Manager