Excerpt from Mashable
In the frenzy of limited time offers, last minute sales and one-click shopping, it can be difficult to stay secure while you shop online, particularly on days like Cyber Monday.
Last year, consumers spent about 1.5 billion dollars on Cyber Monday, up 16% from 2011. Industry experts predict this season will see even more growth. Coupled with the boom in sales is a predicted increase in the amount and severity of online scamming and data theft.
We spoke with Will Pelgrin, CEO of The Center for Internet Security (CIS), a non-profit organization focused on improving the cybersecurity posture of both the private and public sector, who gave us a few helpful tips about staying secure online this season.
1. Don’t Click on Pop-up Ads
Though it may seem obvious, malicious pop-up ads still pose one of the largest threats to web shoppers. According to Pelgrin, studies have shown that a large amount of consumers will click on the account regardless of its message. Be mindful of what pop-ups say, it could be evidence of a security threat.
2. Keep Software Up-To-Date
Though many systems automatically update your software as new features become available, it’s important to keep your programs as current as possible. To avoid security holes, update apps and software minimally once a week, as newer versions appear.
3. Use Strong Passwords
An essential part of online security in any sense is using strong passwords. This means no birthdays, dog names or variations of “1234” for any of your accounts. For help making a strong password, check out our guide: How to Create a Secure Password.
4. Install Antivirus and Anti-Spyware software
When shopping, you don’t want others to be able to track what sites you’re visiting and what information you’re entering online. If you need help choosing, check out our guide here: 5 Best Free Antivirus Software Options.
5. Enable ‘Timeouts’ on Mobile
According to Pelgrin, more and more consumers are doing the bulk of their holiday shopping on mobile phones. If you’re one of those consumers, make sure to enable a lock screen password, in case your device is lost or stolen. “If your phone isn’t timed out, you’re leaving the keys to your kingdom to whoever picks it up,” says Pelgrin.
6. Use a Secure Connection
Pelgrin recommends that any and all online financial transactions take place through a secure, private Wi-Fi connection, as opposed to using the more vulnerable free Wi-Fi in a coffee shop or library.
7. Avoid Email Advertisements
Your inbox is likely swarming with holiday promotions from all of your favorite (and likely least favorite) brands. To avoid being hacked, the CIS recommends you always enter the shop’s URL in your browser, rather than following the links contained in an email.
8. Shop at Companies You Know
Before you buy from a merchant on Amazon, Etsy or Ebay, check their rating and number of sales. Make sure they have good return policies and clearly posted contact information. If worried, you can always check on a businesses legitimacy through the Better Business Bureau.
9. Use Credit, Not Debit
“There are more security protections on your credit card that may not exist while using your debit card, should your info be taken,” says Pelgrin.
10. Ensure Your Site Is Secure
If you are entering your financial information on a webpage, make sure the URL begins with “https” as opposed to “http” or has a lock in your browser’s search bar.