The following is sponsored by Southern Utah University.
The holiday shopping season is upon us, and with it comes the possibilities of credit card fraud, identity theft and other cyber threats that will affect you over the holidays. Don’t fall victim to a cybercrime this season.
Director of IT Security at Southern Utah University, Mark Walton, coordinates campus efforts in protecting the network and employees from cyber threats. Walton encourages people to be vigilant and watch out for potential online crimes, as holiday scams are a real threat.
“As we begin the holiday season, the scammers will be out trying to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers,” said Walton. “Be on the look out for suspicious emails and take a little more care when searching for links and shopping deals.”
Rob Robertson, Department Chair for Computer Science and Information Systems and the Graduate Director of the Master of Cyber Security and Information Assurance at SUU, also warned online shoppers to practice cyber safety. Robertson educates people on the technical side of cyber threats and different methods to help track suspicious behavior.
These cyber professionals offered the following 9 tips for keeping you safe and your information secure while shopping for that perfect holiday gift.
Tip #1: When purchasing online, make sure that the site you are on uses encryption to secure your information. You might ask, how do I know? There is an easy way to tell whether your information is being encrypted: in the address bar of your browser window you will see “https://” at the beginning of the name of the website you are on. For example: https://www.suu.edu/
Tip #2: Never click on a link in an email where you do not know who sent it. Watch out for fraudulent emails advertising deals that seem too good to be true, many times, they are. During the holiday season the bad guys often take advantage of email campaigns to advertise shopping deals, providing you with links right in the email, that go to malicious websites in order to get your credit card or personal information.
Tip #3: Watch out for e-mails for fake purchases or fake shipping notifications. Be sure any order confirmations or shipping notifications are for actual items you purchased, and are from the actual sellers.
Tip #4: Don’t fall for fake support scams. You might receive an unsolicited phone call or pop-up on your computer from “Microsoft” support or some other company offering to help troubleshoot your computer or new device. These are always bogus in nature.
Tip #5: Keep an eye on your bank and credit card accounts. You should be checking those accounts daily for any suspicious activity or fraudulent charges.
Tip #6: Be extra careful when browsing on your cell phone. Watch out for suspicious wording when downloading apps. When you are browsing the Internet, be careful what you click on and the sites you go to. More and more malware is being created for phones and other smaller, mobile devices.
Tip #7: It is critical to maintain updates on all software used on your computer but especially your browser, since that is the primary application used to access websites that might be malicious. Patches and security updates come out very frequently and should be applied as soon as possible, as they are created to address the latest identified vulnerabilities.
Tip #8: Use different passwords when creating online accounts. This is a best practice for general online security, but especially when creating accounts on sites you’ve never shopped at before. It’s always a good idea to use a unique password for each site.
Tip #9: If you are one to online shop while at your local Starbucks, you may want to reconsider your strategy. Public Wi-Fi can be dangerous, especially if you are inputting sensitive information. Your communications can be intercepted and potentially altered, so wait till you get home or to work and connect to a secured network.
If fighting cybercrime is something you’re interested in, check out Southern Utah University’s newly-established Master of Cyber Security and Information Assurance program. Industry experts teach courses remotely, working at places like Nuix, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Secret Service by day and instructing students by night.
We wish you the happiest and safest of holidays this season.