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Top tips to keep hackers away as you browse online

Cybercrime ramps up between October and January and takes advantage of the millions of online transactions that happen during the holiday shopping season

A man shopping online. Image by Tim Sandle, October 2020.
A man shopping online. Image by Tim Sandle, October 2020.

New reports reveal that cybercriminals may be preparing for a ‘grand finale’ to a year filled with cybercrime. This increase in hacker activity is set to coincide with the Holiday season.

This is to the extent with the U.S., that government officials are warning organizations and consumers alike to take extra precautions against hackers.

To what extent is cybercrime increasing? New analysis from Relativity shows that cybercrime ramps up between October and January and takes advantage of the millions of online transactions that happen during the holiday shopping season. This season’s attempted attacks have already started with lost package and Amazon order confirmation spoof emails.

According to Amanda Fennell, Chief Security Officer (CSO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Relativity, these attacks put people at risk for identity theft, account compromise and credit card fraud. Even if a fraudulent attempt on a credit card is discovered and loss is prevented, criminals can still get away with personal information, leaving people vulnerable to future attacks.

Fennell provides some tips for Digital Journal readers to help people stay safe for the holidays. These are:

Secure Shopping Tips

  • Use credit online where possible; you are protected against fraud while using credit, but you may not be when using debit
  • Double check that any sites you enter your card number into are legitimate. You should see a closed padlock with a valid certificate in the address bar
  • Use a secure password manager if you are going to store credit or debit card information for ease of use. Many allow you to store credit cards and other personal information securely encrypted for convenience
  • If you are purchasing at a new online site, consider using a payment processor like PayPal that may provide additional protection.
  • Sign up for fraud alerts with your bank or credit cards. In some cases, you can even set your account up to block charges or send an alert email for a charge greater than a certain amount.

Secure at Home

  • Routinely update all devices attached to your network. That includes your computer, tablet, smart phone, game consoles, smart TVs, media sticks like Roku/Fire TV, fridge, digital thermostat, etc.
  • When you purchase an Internet-connected devices (also known as IoT devices), immediately check for any updates, add the device to your update schedule, and ALWAYS change the default password. Examples include color changing light bulbs or lamps, Apple TV or other video equipment, fitness trackers, etc.
  • After the holidays, break down any boxes that would identify what was in it and recycle them carefully

These types of recommendations will help consumers to keep safe.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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