Holiday time is around the corner, and like many of us at ESET Ireland, a lot of people are leaving Christmas shopping for the last minute. As a result of this procrastination, some online shops are offering to deliver presents on Christmas Eve. We don’t blame you if you want to avoid the cold and shop from the browser window, but remember to stay safe and secure while shopping online! That is why for all of us last-minute Christmas shoppers, here are nine “Santa approved online shopping tips.”
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1. Ensure your computer is set up for safe shopping
Just like you wouldn’t drive a car that wasn’t road-safe, you shouldn’t shop on a computer that isn’t fit for online shopping. Get it ship-shape by updating your operating system, web browser and any other software you can and install a security solution. The patches will close known vulnerabilities, and antivirus software will prevent online threats from trying to steal your data. Try ESET’s free online virus scanner to see how your computer is faring: www.eset.com/online-scanner.
2. Only buy from trusted sites
Using online vendors you can trust is extremely important. Items for sale should have good descriptions and include detailed delivery information with estimated arrival dates. If you’re unsure of a website’s reputation, do some Google research – good websites will have no shortage of people singing their praises online.
3. Be secure when money is involved
When you log into a site, you should do so over a secure connection to prevent your details from being made visible to all. Sites tend to handle this through HTTPS connections, and it’s easy to spot: look for the word ‘https’ at the start of the address bar, and look for the lock in use on mobile devices. This encrypts your connection and helps to keep your data just between you and the shop.
4. Be careful with free offers or amazing discounts
It’s not unusual for products to be discounted at busy shopping times to draw in customers at a hugely competitive time of year, but be cautious. Hackers could craft pop-up windows with amazing offers designed to look like trusted vendors. Be especially sceptical of pop-ups telling you that you’ve won something.
5. Use secure wireless connections
Not all wi-fi is created equal! Free wi-fi hotspots are significantly less secure, so they should be treated with suspicion at the best of times and doubly so if you’re wanting to do anything involving money (i.e., online banking or shopping). Use a secure connection only – your home or work network where snooping cybercriminals are less likely to be listening.
6. Don’t give more information than you have to
It’s not unusual to have to register on websites before buying your presents, but you don’t need to overshare. Generally speaking, the shops will ask for more information than they need – fields marked with an asterisk (*) are usually mandatory and can’t be skipped, but don’t feel you need to fill in the others. If they don’t confirm which are essential, trying to submit with nothing filled in will often make the website become a bit more transparent.
7. Use credit cards
Stores will often prefer you to use your debit card rather than a credit card, but if you have the option, pay with credit card. Why? Credit cards usually have protection against fraud. Keep an eye on your accounts at all times, but especially in the period of your purchase. Contact your bank immediately if you spot any suspicious activity.
8. Use passwords on all your devices
All your devices should be password protected. It’s tempting to keep phones unlocked for convenience, but with a lot of private data on them, a thief could do a lot of damage. Pick a good password, using two or more words and a combination of numbers and letters), and set your phone to lock itself after a few incorrect attempts.
9. Do backups monthly
Backing up your data is important should you lose access to your computer through theft or infection. There’s also ransomware, where an attacker will remotely encrypt your files and demand money to decrypt them again. Frequent backups will mean you don’t have to give in to this kind of extortion. Monthly backups should be sufficient for most, but if you need a more regular schedule, then don’t be afraid to set one.
Finally, enjoy the shopping season from your sofa – just make sure you do so in a secure way. Attackers know this is the busiest time. It’s theirs too. So be sure to stay one step ahead of them with our tips, and stay vigilant.
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ESET Ireland will keep your hardware and software performing as it should. The company has hundreds of people around the world working hard every day so customers’ computers, tablets, smartphones and servers are properly protected. All with minimal impact on their performance.