Cyber Monday Consumer Tips
Here are a few tips to help make the most of Cyber Monday today:
- Shop reputable websites. First, ask yourself if you've done business with the website before? What are other users saying about the website? Be cautious with deals that just show up on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. How many Facebook/Twitter followers does the account have and when was the social media account registered? Prior to entering your credit card and payment information, make sure you are on a secure website (https://). Check the status browser in your browser to make sure the padlock icon is locked, which ensures your connection to the website is encrypted. DO NOT submit your credit card information or bank information over public Wi-Fi! Avoid paying via electronic check and a use a major credit card.
- Be alert for counterfeit product. Can you spot counterfeit merchandise? Does it sound too good to be true? Then it probably is and you should avoid these products. A $50 iPad, or other reputable brand name products that are being sold very cheap should be a red flag. DHS' ICE (Immigration, Customs, and Enforcement) shared this short video via Twitter about counterfeit merchandise this past week. Department of Homeland Security also shared this news release.
- Safeguard your email. If your email service provider offers two-factor authentication, turn it on. Phishing and email spam is still a very successful method for deploying malware and getting you (end-user) to click on suspicious links or open e-mail attachments. DO NOT open suspicious emails, attachments, or links. Be vigilant for emails that may appear to be legitimate at first glance.
- Operating system and software. If you are using Microsoft Windows then you should be running Windows 7/8/10 (not XP) with Windows Updates set to automatically update your operating system. If you are using a mobile device such as a smartphone, make sure you are using the most recent version of iOS/Android/Windows Phone.
- Web-browser and anti-virus product. Your web-browser is your window to the world wide web. There are many web browsers supported by various operating systems. We would recommend Google Chrome with ad-blockers and script blocking extensions available (very important). Unless you have manually changed the settings, Google Chrome is set to auto-update by default, which is great for ensuring your browser is running the most recent version with security updates. Make sure your anti-virus and anti-malware software solutions are up to date. The Internet threat landscape is always changing and having your anti-virus product up to date is a baseline for any web browsing on today's Internet.
- Password Manager. There are still plenty of websites that are not using two-factor authentication. Password length and complexity are important. However, where an attacker is using a brute force attack technique to guess your password, the length of your password is very important (mathematically). Your password length should be a minimum of fifteen (15) characters. You should be using unique passwords for various online accounts. While we won't endorse one password manager over the other, there are several you should review and consider. PCMagazine recently wrote a review of several Password Managers recently. LifeHacker also posted the five(5) Best Password Managers. There are plenty of options available, including two-factor authentication and mobile app via your smartphone app store.
- Be vigilant and verify. Monitor your email, bank accounts, social media accounts, and other online accounts. Be alert for any suspicious activity and never give our your social security number. If you receive suspicious e-mails, phone calls, or other links, try Googling the phone number, e-mail sender, etc. Avoid an unencrypted, public Wi-Fi when shopping and completing online transactions. If you are shopping from your mobile device, make sure that wifi is turned off if you are in a public place and/or connected to a public wi-fi network.