‘Tis the Season …For Extra PC Security
The holiday season presents a variety of challenges for computer users trying to keep their PCs secure and private information safe. Whether you are e-shopping for gifts, planning to give money over the Internet to a favorite charity, checking your banking details online, or even travelling with your computer in tow, you should prepare yourself and your computer.
The increase in Internet commerce and activity this time of year provides the perfect scenario for cyber scammers to steal money or sensitive information from consumers. Online fraud in the U.S. is projected to reach $3.6 billion U.S. this year, up 20 percent from last year, according to a CyberSource survey of e-commerce fraud.
While scams may be out in high gear, there are ways you can alleviate your risk of being a victim. Take a few minutes to look at our PC security tips, below.
Prepare Your PC
The first step in preparing your PC is to make sure your security software (anti-spyware, anti-virus, and firewall) is up-to-date, and that you have updated your operating system with the latest patches. It’s important to do this before making any online transactions.
You should also take into consideration the information and files that you have stored on your computer; most of us have financial and sensitive information that could put our privacy and security at risk if it fell into the wrong hands. If you’re planning on travelling with your laptop, it may be wise to securely lock sensitive files before your journey, which can be done with encryption. Other identity theft safety options you can use include digitally shredding files that contain private information.
If you’re looking for these tools from a trusted source, Lavasoft’s privacy products now include the Lavasoft Digital Lock (file encryptor), File Shredder, and Privacy Toolbox, which combines the functionality of the first two products in one interface.
Do Your Research, Before You Click
When it comes to giving out your financial information, stick to companies you know and trust or well-established e-tailers. You can look up unfamiliar sites at the Better Business Bureau (www.bbbonline.org), www.bizrate.com, or www.shopping.com to check the company’s ratings.
Before you click the buy button, check out the seller, what you are buying, and the payment details. Be sure to find and verify the online seller’s contact information in case you need to get in touch.
Be On Guard for Rogue or Phishing Websites
A favorite trick of cyber scammers is to use fake sites that resemble well-known companies in order to “phish” for your sensitive data. Similarly, watch out for phishing e-mails that purport to be from familiar organizations.
Another popular ploy is online donation scams, which can come in the form of spoofed websites, pop-up messages, unsolicited e-mail, or posts in online forums. If you intend to donate to a charity, be especially cautious of requests sent by e-mail. Play it safe by going to the organization’s website by manually typing the address in to your browser (double-check that the spelling is correct), and not by clicking the link sent in an e-mail.
Look for Security Signs
Be on the lookout for signs that your online transactions are secure. When providing your payment details, the URL should change from “http” to “shttp” or “https”, indicating the information is being encrypted. You can also refer to the padlock icon found at the bottom corner of most browsers, to verify that the site is legitimate and secure.
Switch Off Your PC
Be on the safe side, and turn your computer off when you are not using it. Leaving your machine on at all times gives scammers a better opportunity to install malicious software and control your PC remotely in order to commit cyber crime.