Protect Yourself from Holiday Cyber Threats – Ask the Howlers, Episode 16 Highlights

In episode 16 of “Ask the Howlers,” host Stacia Tympanick, senior solution engineer, met up with Ryan Hendricks, staff architect and manager, to discuss the latest topics concerning cybersecurity impacting the online holiday shopping season.

Check out some highlights from the discussion and gain practical insights on how to stay protected during this holiday season – whether you’re shopping online, strengthening your organization’s security, or protecting your home network.

Online holiday shopping

Host Stacia Tympanick opened the episode by quoting a recent forecast from Adobe that predicts $189 billion U.S. online sales this 2020 holiday season. This reflects a 33% year over year increase.

Previously, when a lot of the shopping was done in physical locations, criminals deployed techniques such as credit card skimming as well as other cyber tactics such as phishing and various scams. This year, with COVID-19 implications, it’s logical that many consumers are shifting to mainly online shopping.

Unfortunately, cyber criminals realize this trend and are following where the consumers are going.

“Are we preparing anything differently this year to protect our organizations?” asked Tympanick.

“Many businesses started their Black Friday sales in mid-November,” explains Ryan Hendricks. “Some organizations have taken precautions and prepared before Black Friday, but many are not really prepared for that influx of online traffic.”

Security advice for businesses selling online

While the focus is often on just consumers shopping online, Tympanick and Hendricks offer some best practices for online retailers. “Online retailers should shop their own sites and go through a transaction,” suggests Tympanick. “This makes sure, from a consumer perspective, it is the experience you want them to have.”

Hendricks also suggests having somebody outside your organization do the online consumer shopping test so it is done by a person/team that is not already familiar with the site.

An online deal too good to be true! – Scams on holiday hot items

Hendricks pointed out that the Sony PlayStation 5 is one of the most coveted electronics items this holiday season.

“There’s a big rush for folks to get it,” he explains. “and that also means attackers are looking at this as a way to scam folks and sell it from non-reputable [sites]. Sometimes you might see a deal that sounds too good to be true. Nothing online is completely free if there is a cost associated with it.”

To stay cyber safe, Hendricks recommends doing a little homework. Research authorized and verified deals from the manufacturer. Consider purchasing the item through these vendors.

Best practices to stay safe this holiday season

Fortunately, there are ways to stay cyber safe during this holiday season. Tympanick and Hendricks shared the following best practices to avoid cyber attacks and keeping your personal information secure and safe.

  1. Reset passwords – Go through all your accounts that may hold sensitive information such as credit card and banking accounts and reset the password. Consider setting up two-factor authentication.
  2. Install new operating systems – The end of the year is a great time to start fresh.
  3. Purge your old systems – Delete the old files and apps you don’t need rather than importing the old stuff to new systems.
  4. Secure new connected devices – Many new connected devices enter the household during the holidays. Ensure they are securely connected to your network to avoid hackers.
  5. Don’t store credit card information on Google or other sites – Consider using secure payment methods like PayPal or ApplePay, which augments security and is often a more seamless experience.
  6. Log out all social media accounts everywhere – Be sure to log out of all social media accounts on older laptops, iPads, and other devices you don’t use.
  7. Consider purchasing via gift cards – Instead of linking to your bank account or credit card, consider using a gift card or prepaid card. This comes in handy when you’re dealing with a site that you’re not too familiar with.

As consumers rush to their laptops and mobile devices to make purchases, cyber criminals are also rushing to try new tactics to steal from you. While it may take a little more time to implement, it’s important to take proactive measures to stay safe during this holiday season.

Get more strategic and actionable insights by watching the entire discussion here.

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