Well, it’s that time of year again – time to start buying those special gifts for friends and family. For some in my family, it is a yearly ritual to drudge out in the cold, dark, very early hours to find the best possible deal on Black Friday. Fortunately for me, and my wife who would do anything to avoid this hassle, we can rely on online shopping. Cyber Monday has been invented for those of us who would prefer to click and tap, rather than wait in line and battle other shoppers.
Online shopping is convenient and efficient. But, it does not come without risk. Cyber criminals are all too aware of your tendency to make online purchases at this time of the year, and they have polished their identity theft skills and tools specially for the occasion.
There are some things you can do to manage the risk. As we gear into the holiday season, it’s a good time for a refresher:
- Shop on HTTPS sites - Look for the “s” on a web site on which you plan to shop. These web pages offer an added layer of security, which is important because you are going to be transmitting sensitive information. Note that some sites only use the “s” for the main login page, so check that every page you’re using has the “s”.
- Your DNS matters : when you enter a shopping site’s domain name (e.g., shoppingsite.com), the DNS (Domain Name System) server is responsible for converting this name into an IP address (e.g., 188.8.131.52) which is the address of the actual web server. Cyber Criminals are increasingly using malware to change your DNS from the legitimate one (e.g., your ISP’s) to a fraudulent one which will redirect you to a hacking site, instead of the legitimate web server. Once on the fraudulent site, the cyber criminal can easily record your sensitive data. To avoid this problem, ensure that you are always using a trusted DNS when connecting to the Internet. Note that Xfinity Internet customers get Constant Guard, a desktop application which will block these kinds of DNS changes, when on the Comcast network.
- Be selective about your cards : consider using a credit card, instead of your debit card. If uncovered by a cyber criminal, your debit card will lead straight to your bank account, which can result in a bigger problem with getting reimbursed
- Go local : you’ve probably heard about some big companies who have had their servers breached, impacting millions of consumers. Reconsider storing your credit card on the shopping site’s server.
- Be Smart : If you receive a pop up congratulating you on for winning a brand new Tablet for $2.00, it’s probably a scam; as is the request to send money to bank account to help an off shore vet. None of these are legit, but many of them crop up during the holiday season.
Lastly, as I suggest in all of my posts, services like Constant Guard, which Xfinity customers can download at no extra cost, really help with online banking and shopping by storing your credit cards and passwords minimizing the impact of malware.
However you’re connecting to the Internet this Holiday season, I hope you do so safely!