The holiday season is a time for being thankful, spending time with loved ones, and shopping for gifts to give to friends and family.  Although each holiday season is a time of great joy for many, it is also an opportune time for cyber criminals and hackers to exploit victims for their personal data and commit electronic theft in a variety of ways.  Here are a few key recommendations that Managed IT service providers, like Natural Networks, are offering our customers when shopping this holiday season.

Online Retailers are a Prime Target for Holiday Hackers

Taking your shopping online for the holidays has become more popular with each passing holiday season. Shopping online for sales during the holidays has even spurred its own Black Friday retail day called Cyber Monday.  2020’s year-end online shopping is expected to be one of the largest online shopping events to date considering more families are opting to do their holiday shopping online due to the COVID pandemic.  E-Commerce holiday sales are expected to generate $182 billions to $196 billion dollars this season, which is an increase of over 25% based on Deloitte’s annual forecast.

These increased online sales are also expected to increase the risk that online retailers are exposed to.  Hackers and other cyber criminals are predicted to target online retailers, e-commerce platforms, and accelerate phishing attacks to consumers over the holiday season.  To guard yourself against these vulnerabilities, there are some simple steps to follow in order to protect your data and make sure your holiday season remains a joyful one.

Many online retailers use third-party e-commerce platforms to run their online shopping systems.  Hackers target these third-party tools to breach customer databases, which can expose email accounts, shopping histories, and even customer banking information.

There are several ways to help increase your protection while shopping online.  Some major credit card and banks offer cards with a dynamic CVV that change with daily intervals, ensuring that if the card is compromised in a future data breach, the information is useless to the hackers who breached the data.

Other companies, like Google and Apple, offer other ways of securely paying for goods online or in-store through Google Wallet and Apple Pay.  Apple’s Credit Card uses a security method – known as tokenization – where a temporary card number is issued from your card network (Visa, or Mastercard for example), which is then validated with the bank that issued the card.  All of this can only happen after the user has confirmed the purchase with their face using Face ID or a fingerprint.

Other things to consider while shopping this holiday season is making sure that while shopping online, you do so from your network at home, or one you are confident is secure and not on a public connection.  Online shopping can be very risky from a public wireless network (i.e. the airport, a doctor’s office, or in a restraint-provided network, like Starbucks, to name a few examples).  This unsecure method of shopping exposes you to “Man-In-The-Middle” attacks where a hacker may broadcast their own wireless network that looks similar to the one you are trying to connect to in public, thereby exposing your data, banking information, and other details to the cyber-criminal.

Phishing attacks are also expected to be at an increased rate this holiday season, with online shopping expected to surge this year.  Be wary of any emails you get from online retailers asking you to reset your password when you never requested it or requesting you to click a link in the message that takes you to a website.  Always be sure that the emails you receive are from who they say they are from by inspecting the email headers at the top in the “From” address section of the e-mail.  If the domain (the website after the @ symbol) is not correct or from the person it says it’s from, that’s a sign you should delete that message.

Also, inspect any links in the message body by hovering your mouse over them without clicking on the link.  This should display where the site is taking you to.  If it’s anywhere but the message sender’s website, do not click on it.  And, remember, that your bank, or any online retail store, will never ask you for your password, or request that you reset your password without you having requested it first.

By following these steps, you can help increase the protection of your online shopping experience and keep your bank and other information private.  If you want to learn more about protecting your data online for yourself, or your business, give us a call today.

We at Natural Networks hope you have a safe and happy holiday season!