‘Tis the most vulnerable time of the year! With the Holiday’s fast approaching, so is an increase in cybercrimes. It’s not anybody’s fault (well, except for the cyber criminals) it’s a crazy busy season. In fact, according to F5 Labs, in November of 2021 phishing attacks increased a whopping 157% and e-commerce attacks 200%. Your inboxes are being flooded with marketing material, promotions, online receipts, donation requests, and shipping notifications, so cyber criminals prey on your overwhelmed state.
Here are 3 ways to avoid becoming a victim this holiday season:
Online activity surges during the holidays, specifically online shopping. During the holiday season, more people shop online, send and receive electronic greetings, and engage in other online activities. This increased online presence provides cybercriminals with a larger pool of potential targets.
More online shopping = more opportunity for fraud.
Make sure that you are only making purchases on reputable sites. If your gut tells you not to give the site your banking information, then it is probably right. But if you do, using a safe form of payment such as a credit card, virtual card, or an online payment platform such as PayPal will help to keep you protected. Encrypted websites will also have ‘https’ in the web address, but that alone doesn’t ensure that the site is legit (scammers know how to encrypt too!)
Many stores also require users to create an account to ‘checkout’, which means you’ll likely need a password. As always, ensure that you are using a unique password or passphrase.
We get it, everybody loves free things. But before you go connecting to that free mall WIFI, think again. Public networks are the easiest way to compromise your device, as cyber criminals who have easy access to these networks can use them to prey on users, or businesses connected to them, and steal information or infect them with nasty malware. Remember, when you are on a public network your data is not private.
Charity and Donations
It’s the season of giving! But take extra care to make sure that your generosity is not betrayed. While falling into the same category as the above phishing tactics, we think that donation scams require their own section. Around the holidays, you are likely to see an increase in emails from non-profits and charities. Before you click on any links and make that donation, ensure that you are in fact giving to the right organization. Reputable organizations will always have (with a few small exceptions) their own domain address. If you are receiving an email that ends in ‘@gmail.com‘, then the sender is likely an imposter. Misspelled words and names are also an indicator that the sender is not who they claim to be.
Remember, legitimate organizations will never ask that you send donations via gift cards or e-transfer. If the sender requests either of these, you should immediately report the email address and not respond.
Warburton, D. (2021, December 17). Holiday phishing trends for 2021. F5 Labs. https://www.f5.com/labs/articles/threat-intelligence/holiday-phishing-trends-for-2021
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