It was reported that the UK’s bargain hunters spent £5.55 billion on Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2019, a number which is predicted to rise to £5.98 billion for 2020. With COVID-19 still raging around us, this year’s sales will be even more of an online event than in normal times, leaving open the possibility of hackers targeting online shoppers. In 2019, there was a reported 63% spike in malware around Black Friday and Cyber Monday; It’s imperative that shoppers are aware of these threats so not as to part unnecessarily with their hard-earned cash. AT&T Alien Labs has also noted a 130% increase in password stealing and banking trojans from Q3 2019 to Q3 2020.
Users should always scrutinize messages they receive from their banks, especially if they come from outside the institution’s banking app. Cybercriminals will often begin an attack through phishing or smishing, convincing you to click on a malicious link or download an attachment in an email or text. Some of these attempts may manipulate the trust you have in your bank by impersonating them. Thankfully, some banks now offer secure in-app messaging, which is by far the safest way for them to communicate with you. In these cases, you can rest assured that the messages you receive from your bank are secure. This is largely thanks to encryption, which makes messages unreadable to everyone but the selected recipient.
Online holiday shopping this year will be more popular than ever, as the global pandemic encourages shoppers to stay home. Consequently, we can expect to see an increase in cybercrime and scams.
The best way to make better software is by incorporating security at every phase of the development process. When designing software, vendors should use threat modeling to incorporate features that thwart attacks. Defense in depth and other secure design principles should be used. When building and testing software, vendors need to integrate automated security testing to find and fix more vulnerabilities before release. Unfortunately, consumers don’t have visibility into how apps and web sites are built, so it is nearly impossible to assess the risk of using a particular piece of software.
However, consumers can take proactive steps to protect themselves. Keep system software and applications up to date to guard against known vulnerabilities. Protect accounts with multifactor authentication whenever possible; strong, hard-to-guess passwords are recommended. As always, be wary of anything that seems too good to be true, particularly unsolicited emails or texts offering free gift cards. Research unfamiliar web sites to determine legitimacy.
When application developers build security in, and consumers follow best practices, we will have a safe and enjoyable online holiday shopping season.
Consumers should monitor their credit cards daily during the holiday season for suspicious and unauthorized charges.
Consumers should pick one of their credit cards or debit cards for their holiday shopping purchases to more easily manage and monitor transactions. Consumers should consider putting a temporary hold on all but one or two credit accounts during the holiday season.
Because data breaches lead to password theft, consumers need to regularly update their passwords. Do not use the same passwords repeatedly. Surprisingly, consumers still use passwords such as \’password\’ or ‘1234567.’ Consumers should also consider using a password manager because they are easy to use and are safe. Reputable products include, NordPass, LastPass and 1Password. Some companies are offering FREE 30-day trials on their services.
The holidays are a time of great joy and reflection for many people on their accomplishments and achievements throughout the year. It is a time of joy and love and appreciation for family and friends. Unfortunately, the holiday joy can soon become misery because of the growing risk cyber thieves pose to shoppers and holiday revellers. Be safe and be on the lookout for cybercrime attempts that might just come across your personal devices through phishing emails and other scams. Diligence will reduce the holiday shopping risks facing every shopper around the world this year.