5 tips to shop safely online during the holiday season

by Jerome on November 23rd, 2011 in Security Tips.

The holiday shopping season is right around the corner and 'tis the season to be safe. These 5 tips will help you to safely shop online and to stay away from hackers, identity thieves and scammers.


#1 - Use strong passwords and keep them safe

Creating strong passwords is an absolute must if you want to shop safely online during the holiday season. Having a strong password will help you to stay protected against password cracking attacks and identity theft that are deeply prevalent during shopping season.

Here’s a checklist to help you create a strong password:

  • Your password has at least 8-10 characters
  • Your password uses both lower and upper cases
  • Your password contains at least one character symbol like ‘$*&_#-!@’
  • Your password contains at least one number
  • Your password does not contain any common words found in a dictionary and is not your username

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to all of the above, then you should have a strong password.


#2 - Don’t use unprotected public networks and websites

Coffee shops, shopping malls or hotels are definitely not great places to shop online. Public places often provide open Wi-Fi networks for patrons to conveniently go online with their phones or laptops. However, these public networks are very often unprotected and can easily be spied on by hackers.

If you absolutely have to use a public Wi-Fi network to shop online, make sure that:

  • You have a firewall and an up-to-date anti-spyware
  • Encrypt the important files that are stored on your computer
  • Always shop on sites with valid SSL certificates
  • Consider only using a credit card with a low credit limit or a temporary card

#3 - Be very careful of suspicious emails and links

Online criminals resort to phishing attempts in order to steal your personal information. Phishing is a social engineering tacking through which identity thieves pretend to be a legitimate institution or business (such as your bank, your preferred social network or even a search engine like Google) in order to steal your personal information. Read more about how to stay protected against phishing sites.

To avoid being scammed into handing over your personal information, here are a few simple steps:

  1. Always be very careful of suspicious emails and links. And never fill out forms or signup pages coming from these emails or links.
  2. Never enter your personal information on a page you don’t know or trust. And always check the URL to make sure you’re not on a phishing site.
  3. Never send your passwords via email.
  4. Only sign in to your online accounts when your 100% certain that you’re on the right site. Remember phishing sites impersonate legitimate sites by copying their login page. But one thing online criminals can’t copy is the URL. So always check the URL to make sure it is legitimate.
  5. Use an anti-phishing browser add-on to automatically warn you when you’re on suspected phishing sites.

#4 - Always keep your system updated with the latest security patches

Cybercriminals constantly discover new exploit vulnerabilities in operating systems and its software. At the very same time, software companies work diligently to patch security exploits. This is why it is critical to always keep your system updated with the latest security patches and updates. Read why install security updates.


#5 - Scan regularly for viruses and spyware

Always scan regularly for viruses and spyware by using an anti-malware software that is updated with the latest malware definitions. This can pro-actively protect you during the holidays in case your computer gets infected with spyware or viruses.