The holiday season means seeing loved ones, giving gifts, enjoying food, and lots of shopping. After Thanksgiving, millions of people around the world begin their holiday shopping both online and in stores. However, the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, is also one of the most dangerous. Reports show that cases of online fraud increase dramatically around this time of year, and this is only one of the many cybersecurity risks that shoppers face during the winter months. In this article, we’ll provide you with some of our best cybersecurity holiday tips to help you and your loved ones stay safe during the most wonderful time of the year. 

Cybersecurity Holiday Tips

According to the National Retail Federation, an estimated 158.3 million people shopped during the 2022 Thanksgiving holiday weekend. This is significantly higher than in previous years, but online shopping may have a role in that. Reports from NPD show that 85% of consumers plan to shop online for gifts during the 2022 holiday season, with statistics indicating that this number will only increase year-over-year. 

With so many more people shopping both online and in person, it’s no wonder that cybercriminals come out in droves during November and December. Luckily, there are reliable security measures you can implement that will help to protect your personal data.

Update Software and Devices

When you rely on hardware like your computer and cell phone, it’s important to make sure that they’re protected at all times – especially during the holiday season. One of the best ways to ensure that they’re safe is to ensure that your devices are consistently updated to the latest version of any relevant software. 

If there is a vulnerability on your device, cybercriminals can leverage that weakness to infiltrate your system. They can then exploit the insecure nature of your computer or phone to steal your data, make purchases in your name, and even impersonate you fraudulently. This is why it’s so vital to keep your devices and software up to date.  

Have Strong Passwords and Use 2FA

You may already be aware that having a good password is important, but it’s necessary to ensure that your password cannot be guessed either. You may have a “secure” passphrase with numbers and symbols, but if it’s something easy to figure out, you may be in just as much danger as if you had no password at all. 

We’ve created a comprehensive guide to understanding how to create a strong password, which you can find here. Essentially, you want to ensure that the passphrase is easy for you to remember but challenging enough that a cybercriminal cannot guess it and use it to gain access to your personal information. This means that you shouldn’t mention anything like your name, your birthday, your pet’s name, or where you live in your password. 

It’s also vital that you add two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication to all of your accounts and devices. This makes it so that anyone attempting to access your profiles will need to pass an authentication check in order to do so, giving you a chance to know ahead of time if someone is trying to steal your data so you can take action to prevent it.

Avoid Potential Scams

Although avoiding scams is easier said than done, it’s necessary to be aware of potential scams and tricks that cybercriminals might use. During the holidays, criminals are often doing everything they can to obtain money or data from their victims. This can involve dangerous phishing scams over the phone, emails, text messages, or on social media. 

If you believe that someone may be attempting to scam you, simply look up their contact information to see if it’s attached to a company or a person, and you can work to determine if your data is in danger from there. However, it’s important to never click a link that someone sends you unless you know who they are and what you’re being sent. 

Never send any personal information over the Internet or the phone, be it on a call or in a text message unless you can verify that they’re someone you know or that they represent an organization or business that you trust. Handing over your private data to a third party can be an easy way to find fraudulent activity on your account, which no one wants to deal with during the holiday season. 

Shop with Reliable Businesses 

Another method that cybercriminals use year-round is the fake storefront. You may have seen them before: websites with only a few products (or an overwhelming surplus) that don’t have any “support” options or ways for you to return your order. One way you can avoid these sites is to check with the BBB (Better Business Bureau) to ensure that they’re accredited. 

You can also search online for reviews of the website or retailer that you want to order from. This can give you an idea of what other customers are saying, and might even reveal whether the page is legitimate or not. You can also check to see if their social media accounts are active or check their contact information to reach them directly in order to verify their representation.

Keep Track of Banking Information

Although you should monitor your bank account all year, it’s more important than ever during November and December. If you are purchasing gifts for friends and family, you may not notice strange activity on your account in between purchases at different stores. However, keeping track of your banking information is necessary to ensure that your money and data are safe. 

Check your online statement regularly, even daily. Monitor how you spend and where you spend, as well as the amounts spent at each place. Some criminals will charge you a mere $0.01 to simply test if your account works the way they need it to, so never overlook a charge just because of its size. 

Use an Antivirus and a VPN

With a powerful antivirus and a reliable VPN on your personal devices during the holiday season, you can rest assured that your private data will be secure. An antivirus will keep dangerous viruses and malware away from your computer, phone, or tablet. They can help to filter out certain risks that you may not have caught otherwise. 

However, a VPN can do much more than protect you. With a VPN, you can mask your online data for more protection and enhanced security. You can also gain access to restricted content in other regions when traveling or away from home. Using a VPN on your computer, phone, tablet, smart TV, and router can help you provide enhanced protection against these threats.

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