Cyber security tips for the holidays

The holidays are fast approaching and without a doubt, cyber thieves are gearing up for the upcoming season with the latest scams and vulnerabilities to target online shoppers.

When you shop online, you’re naturally putting your information out there more frequently. And let’s face it, cancelling your credit cards after becoming victim to cyber crime can really put a damper on your holiday season.

There’s no better time than the present to take a few moments and confirm you’re doing all you can to protect your information from ending up in the hands of cyber criminals.

Get started with these 7 cyber security tips:

1. Don’t Reuse Passwords

Despite security expert’s advice to NEVER reuse the same username and password across multiple websites, according to a 2017 Consumer Mobile Security App Use study by Keeper Security, a staggering number of people admitted to doing just that.

Respondents ages 18-30 stated they reuse passwords 87% of the time, while respondents ages 31+ reuse passwords 81% of the time. There’s no doubt remembering passwords is tedious, but taking this “short cut” can significantly make it easier for cyber criminals to access your accounts.

To make matters worse, if you use the same username, a hacker can simply guess your password and search or enter your username into popular online websites to get access to your accounts.

2. The Safe Way to Remember Passwords

The risk of browser saved passwordsThere’s a lot of debate when it comes to password security and what actually qualifies as a secure password, but one thing is for sure – it’s not a good idea to save passwords in your browser. If your computer was compromised and all passwords were stored in your browser, hackers could easily gain access to all your accounts. As an alternative, consider using a secure password manager like LastPass or Roboform instead.

3. Use Secure Passwords

Speaking of secure passwords, avoid these common mistakes. Whenever possible, use 2-step verification, which is often seen on popular websites like Facebook and Gmail when you’re prompted to enter your phone number in addition to your password. Mobile devices and some laptops offer 2-step verification in the form of fingerprint identification as well.

4. Update Social Media Privacy Settings

It’s a common mistake to assume your privacy settings will remain intact across social media profiles. In reality, social media networks can perform updates that suddenly make your profile public. This presents an opportunity for cyber criminals to gather data from your social profiles and use that information to gain access to your other accounts. For this reason, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of checking your social profile privacy settings once a month and Googling your name to see what your profiles look like to the public.

5. Close Down Old Accounts

While reviewing privacy settings across your social accounts, consider closing down old accounts you no longer use with these tips. In addition, you can disconnect old apps you’ve previously connected to your Google account here. The more “connected” your Google account is to apps, the more likely it is that some of your information is being shared with unknown parties you might not be aware of.

6. Engage in Safe Online Shopping

shoppingIf you plan to do some online shopping this season, consider creating a free email address via Gmail or Yahoo for online shopping sites specifically.

This allows you to keep your primary email address separate in the event your email is compromised or bombarded with junk email.

Use this “throw away account” for coupons, shopping sites or new websites you encounter.

Before you consider purchasing from a new website, be sure to Google the name of the business + reviews to see what others are saying and verify the website is legitimate. You’ll want to be especially cautious if the price of the product seems too good to be true.

7. Avoid Shopping on Public Wi-Fi Networks

While out and about on a shopping trip, be careful when accessing the web on public Wi-Fi networks. You might be tempted to order that hard-to-find item online while taking a break at your local coffee shop, but don’t give in to that temptation. Public Wi-Fi networks are a prime target for hackers. It’s best to use secure Wi-Fi networks for purchases or accessing banking information.

Most of all, be safe, be cautious and enjoy the holiday season!

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