Online Holiday Shopping Spree: A Must Read Checklist For Security Minded People

Many experts (including those cited in this Forbes article) believe that 2017 Black Friday will be huge and Cyber Monday will be even bigger.

We’ll spend time on known sites like Amazon, but we’ll also be inundated with email offers, targeted online ads, redirects from smaller online companies, and a host of other advertising.

Today I won’t cover the moral and societal issues surrounding massive spending sprees. I did that last week, and hope that everyone will read, reread and share the Addiction Week posts.

Today, instead, I offer some tips on how to remain as safe as possible as you seek out, explore, and finalize online purchases.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is not an exhaustive list. It’s not 100% guaranteed to stop personal information loss. However, follow these steps and you’re in much better shape than those who continue to blindly shop online without having taken precautions.

With that in mind:

2017 Online Shopping Safety Checklist

  • Clean devices: Make sure any internet connected device you’ll use to shop from (computers, phones, xbox, etc) are up-to-date, patched, and virus and malware free. Run scans, run antivirus, run device updates if you haven’t. If you don’t know how to do this, make sure to ask a tech savvy relative or friend to help after Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Secure your device: Make sure you have strong passwords or pins on your phones. When you set this up, ask yourself, “If my phone was lost or stolen today, could someone easily gain access?” If yes, then take a few steps to make it harder for thieves or opportunists.
  • 2-Factor Authentication: With every account that supports it (especially bank accounts and your main online shopping accounts), use 2-factor authentication, biometrics, or some other 2 step login process. This will save a whole bunch of headaches, because then bad actors can’t simply steal your username and password and have access to everything.
  • Password health: If you’ve been putting it off, find some time to install, configure, and use a Password Manager. I love Dashlane. It’s awesome. Don’t reuse passwords on multiple sites, and don’t use passwords that are easy to guess or crack. Dashlane and other managers can help.
  • Avoid Phishing: Tis the season for phishing attempts. Bad actors know that you’re going to get a bajillion marketing emails between now and January. They use that to their advantage. They send out great looking ads, scary and authentic looking notices that look like they came from your bank, card company, the government, etc, and they also know that if most consumers see the words FLASH SALE (or some variant) it’s human nature to click for more info. Don’t get hooked! Almost always better to go directly to the site from your browser instead of clicking on a sale link.
  • Do some research: I love shopping with small business whenever I can – especially now that small business can have big ideas and these ideas can come to life through crowdsourcing and micro loans. There are some awesome products and solutions out there. And I’m already getting email and targeted online ads from small businesses with great Cyber weekend sales. However, before I shop on these sites I’m going to do a simple Google search, find out if the company is reputable, read some reviews, and then go to the site directly from Google instead of through an email or an online ad. That way I lessen my exposure to phishing, fraud, and data loss.
  • Be aware: When you go to check out online, please take a second and ask yourself why the company you’re purchasing from needs the information they’re asking for. Only fill out required information. Don’t give any company more info than you need to. And, if you hit check out and get a funny feeling about the information they’re requiring, might be best to exit out and either do some site homework or go buy from a more reputable source.
  • Don’t connect to every WiFi network you find: Not all WiFi networks are safe. Bad actors use busy weekends to set up iffy networks. They can use these to either gain access to personal information, or simply to view and use your data.
  • Don’t blindly download apps: Apps are cool, but they’re not always the most secure. Make sure, if you’re going to shop via an app, that you downloaded that app from the official App Store. And, especially at this time of year, make sure that you’re downloading the officially sanctioned version of that app, not some knockoff designed with data loss in mind.

Short version: When you shop online this year, 1) Stay updated, 2) Be smart, and 3) Protect your info.

If you have any questions about these tips, or need more info, please contact me via the website.

Stay safe out there!





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