Keeping Your Information Secure This Holiday Season

By Roger Murray | November 23rd, 2016

There is a certain amount of accepted risk associated with shopping, especially during the holiday season.  Identify theft and fraud have become an accepted risk for many online and retail shoppers.  This year is thought to see an even greater level of attacks aimed toward the consumer market, ranging from malicious sites exploiting your data for ransom, to capturing credit card information.  The hacker’s approach is to seek the easy targets and low-hanging fruit.

It’s why we decided to offer a few tips to help you keep your finances, devices, and personal information safe during the holiday season.

Public Wi-Fi:  Free Public Wi-Fi is an easy and convenient way for criminals to create malicious access points, or even hijack public access points that are poorly setup.  In fact, it’s so easy a 10 year old could do it.

While saving your mobile data, and avoiding overage charges can be stressful, avoid using these hotspots, unless necessary.  If you do, try to add a level of security by using a secure VPN connection, even try the free Opera Browser with an integrated VPN feature we discussed here.

If neither of these are options, try to avoid conducting banking or any payment transactions while using public Wi-Fi until you are on a secure network.

Support Scams:  Support scams and fraud occur year-round.  Normally they peak around the holiday season when they attempt to exploit consumers for support or software that they do not need.

There are examples of where callers impersonate Microsoft representatives or even official government entities such as the IRS.  We took an in-depth look at support fraud and the best practices to avoid network infiltration here, without burying the lead, the best thing to keep in mind is that Microsoft, nor your bank, will call to address security concerns or support issues.  In those rare occasions where your banking institution does call about a security concern, they do not ask for your credit card details, login credentials, or personal information.

When in doubt, hang up, and call the number on the back of your credit card, or a verified support number from the software company the caller claimed to be representing.

Credit Card Skimmers:  One of the easiest methods to acquiring massive amounts of shopper credit card information revolves around skimmers.  Small devices that are installed around a legitimate retailer’s card processing machine, that then in turn captures your card information.  The video below can attest to just how easy and quick these devices can be installed.

Phishing Attacks: We’ve discussed the topic of Phishing Attacks before, but threats typically intensify during the holiday season.  Most impersonate big-box retail stores, offering promotional offers and exclusive offers as an attachment, do not open it.  You should also avoid clicking on unknown links embedded in the messages.

Finally, the trend of Ransomware Attacks continues to grow and is expected to be used to exploit online shoppers so that they may regain access to their computer.  The safest practice is to avoid clicking on links or opening attachments from unknown senders, it just isn’t worth the risk to your personal information and identity.

Internet of Things (IOT) Gifts: Some of the best gifts this year will be technology and gadgets to help us in our daily lives.  Automating tasks or providing us with the ability to control parts of our home remotely are the widely popular.

However, it is important to remember the recent DDoS Attack that resulted in half the internet going dark.  Before making a purchase, check to see if the door buster sale you are getting is due to the brand being a part of the IOT bots being used by attackers.  You can also be proactive by ensuring you change default passwords on the device which can easily be found online.

Learn More:  To learn how TSI provides network security solutions for businesses and their customers, Contact Us today!

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