Among the rush of packing, planning, and travel excitement, holiday cyber security is frequently overlooked. Cybercriminals are aware of how hectic the holidays can be and know that now is the ideal time to prey on you. Thankfully, there are simple actions you can take to protect your information during the busy holiday season. Read the top tips and tricks we’ll provide you for protecting your devices and data while on vacation in this article.
Who are Cybercriminals?
Cybercriminals are people or groups of people who utilize technology to carry out nefarious acts on digital networks or systems to steal confidential business information or personal data and make money.
Identity Thieves, Internet Stalkers, Phishing Scammers, and Cyber Terrorists are examples of Cybercriminals.
Why Cyberattacks Increase During the Holidays
One of the main causes of the increase in cyber attacks over the Christmas season is online shopping. During this period, more individuals shop online, and they do so on more exposed gadgets.
Also, small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and consumers tend to let their guard down during Black Friday and Cyber Monday due to the huge amount of online shopping, which makes them attractive targets for a data breach. Additionally, SMBs lack the internal IT staff needed to protect their business and their customers’ data from cybercriminals.
4 Most Common Holiday Cyber Security Risks
Cybercriminals use a variety of methods to commit crimes online. Here are a handful of the most common methods:
- Identity Theft
- Phishing Scams
- Ransomware Attacks
- Social Engineering
- Identity Theft
When someone steals your name, ID number, or credit card number without your consent and commits fraud, that is considered identity theft. Your information could be used by an identity thief to apply for credit, buy things with your stolen card, and more.
- Phishing Scams
Phishing is the fraudulent act of sending emails that appear to be from reputable businesses to get recipients to reveal personal information, including passwords and credit card numbers. It is used frequently during the holidays.
- Ransomware Attacks
Cybercriminals lock up files on a computer, preventing a person or company from accessing them, and demand payment to unlock the files. There is no guarantee that the attacker will release the files after receiving payment.
- Social Engineering
Psychological manipulation known as social engineering is used to persuade others to take certain actions or divulge personal information. In cybercrime, these are routinely used to trick gullible people into disclosing information, disseminating malware infections, or unlocking locked systems.
14 Ways to Stay Protected From Cybercriminals This Holiday Period
Here are 14 suggestions to keep in mind if you want to protect yourself against holiday scams and online fraud.
- Keep software and Devices updated.
Cybercriminals use well-known flaws in software and hardware to access networks and/or steal sensitive data. Keep your operating system, apps, and security software updated whether you’re using a laptop or a smartphone before doing any transactions to ensure vulnerabilities are addressed and patched. It offers the finest defence against phishing and viruses.
- Shop from reputable online stores with SSL Encryption
Cybercriminals have easier access to the personal information and data you enter on the website without security measures. So, Before clicking, carefully review the URLs. When your data is sent to the shop via SSL encryption, it is secure. A website is encrypted if the URL begins with “HTTPS:” rather than “HTTP:” and your browser displays a padlock icon. so avoid making any purchases from websites without it.
- Use Your Credit Card or PayPal
Given that they are not directly connected to your bank account and offer theft insurance, your credit card or PayPal account provides more security if you become the target of a cyber-attack. Use them instead of your debit card to pay for your online purchases.
- Backup for All Devices
You can never lose critical information thanks to a data backup. It’s simple to save crucial files to the cloud or external memory before you depart, ensuring their safety even if your devices are stolen, damaged, or lost.
- Use Anti-virus Software
To protect your PC from attacks, use antivirus software or comprehensive internet security applications. With antivirus software, you can check for, find, and remove risks before they become an issue. Keep your antivirus software updated for the best level of security.
- Beware of Phishing attacks
The holidays are a time to be exceptionally watchful for phishing attacks. Attacks by phishers are becoming more sophisticated than ever, and they are intensifying their efforts more than ever over the holiday season. During the holiday season, you can encounter some of the following phishing attacks:
- You receive a warning email telling you your security software or email account is compromised. Beware of pop-up warnings or web page alerts that warn you about security issues.
- You receive a receipt from scammers for something you didn’t purchase (fake order confirmations). They are hoping you click on the link to alert the retailer.
- Some emails have been hidden within all of your genuine shipment and delivery reminders that, if you click, will trick you into giving your personal information.
- Control your social media usage
Scams are prevalent on social media, especially around the holidays. Avoid these two typical Christmas frauds: Fake social media ads that imitate real advertisements but direct you to illegal copycat websites and social media gift exchanges ( Secret Santa). These gift exchanges are intended to steal your money and personal information.
Finally, keep your personal information secure over the holiday season. Avoid publishing your travel schedule online, where burglars could use it to organize a break-in. Use end-to-end encrypted messaging services like WhatsApp if you can’t wait to share personal information.
- Stay away from insecure WiFi networks
Shopping online while connected to free public WiFi is very handy, but it is not secure. However, it can lead to an ambush by man-in-the-middle attacks by cybercriminals. So, avoid utilizing free public WiFi to make purchases. To keep your information secure, use a virtual private network (VPN) or your phone as a hotspot.
- Beware of charitable scams
Charities usually organize our year-end fundraising and request donations. Because of this, con artists are simultaneously undertaking coordinated frauds. One of the greatest methods to keep yourself safe is to never make a donation in response to a phone call or email solicitation; instead, go directly to the website of your preferred charity.
Give.org and Charity Navigator are among the websites where you can research charities to find out if they are reputable before donating.
- Check Your Bank Accounts Regularly
You should always carefully review your purchases and balances, especially in December and January because of the increased holiday spending. Make it a habit to frequently verify your outgoing money, even if you don’t believe it to be a fraud.
Check not just your bank account, but also check your credit and debit cards, and payment applications (PayPal, Venmo, CashApp, Zelle, Google Pay) for fraud.
Inform your banking institution, your credit card provider, the credit bureaus, the FTC, and police authorities right away if you come across any fraud.
- Do Not Share Personal Information
Unless you are very positive that the connection and email are secure, you should never reveal personal information over the phone or by email. Verify you are speaking to the right person and If you must share any data with a person you can trust, do so safely by using a password manager.
- Verify Shipping Confirmations and Email Offers
Do not click on any email links. Cybercriminals are getting more skilled at creating email phishing scams to steal your personal information and data or infect your devices with malware. It is advisable to visit the business website whenever possible to verify special offers and deals and to find out the status of your online orders.
- Beware of Advertisements and Scam Online Stores
The holiday is usually the time many people shop online and look for shopping inspiration. It is no wonder that Cybercriminals take advantage of this to launch malicious attacks on unsuspecting victims. They usually create phoney websites with stolen images to deceive. Ensure that you verify a brand or online store before purchasing. Stay safe while shopping.
- Don’t let over-the-shoulder data thieves fool you
Even though hackers are developing more complex techniques every day, classic shoulder peeps still get away with murder. They frequently loiter in open areas, such as the hotel pool, gazing over your shoulder to take any data you might share.
It can be challenging to see them in crowded areas. To be safe, use innovative technology to your advantage. For instance, a screen protector can completely darken your phone screen to anyone not staring directly at it.
Steps to Take If You’re Scammed
No one wants to go through the ordeal of being conned around the holidays. Numerous folks are still determining where to turn for assistance once they realize they have been scammed. Here are some useful suggestions that can help you after you are scammed:
- Inform your banks right away.
- Change each password you use and keep a copy of it in a password vault.
- Make a complaint to the Internet Crime Complaint Center of the FBI.
- Message the Federal Trade Commission with a complaint (FTC)
- Obtain a copy of your credit report to check for any unusual activity.
- Contact a security company or professional to help you.