With Christmas coming fast, this is a last ditch effort to enlighten, empower and protect online shoppers. The abridged source of the following information is from the National Cyber Alert System by US-CERT, a government organization.
How do attackers target online shoppers?
- Targeting vulnerable computers – If you do not take steps to protect your computer from viruses or other malicious code, an attacker may be able to gain access to your computer and all of the information on it.
- Creating fraudulent sites and email messages – Unlike traditional shopping, where you know that a store is actually the store it claims to be, attackers can create malicious websites that appear to be legitimate or email messages that appear to have been sent from a legitimate source.
- Intercepting insecure transactions – If a vendor does not use encryption, an attacker may be able to intercept your information as it is being transmitted.
How can you protect yourself?
- Use and maintain anti-virus software, a firewall, and anti-spyware software.
- Keep software, particularly your web browser, up to date – Install software updates so that attackers cannot take advantage of known problems or vulnerabilities.
- Evaluate your software’s settings – The default settings of most software enable all available functionality. Apply the highest level of security available that still gives you the functionality you need.
- Do business with reputable vendors – Before providing any personal or financial information, make sure that you are interacting with a reputable, established vendor.
- Take advantage of security features – Passwords and other security features add layers of protection if used appropriately
- Be wary of emails requesting information – Attackers may attempt to gather information by sending emails requesting that you confirm purchase or account information.
- Make sure your information is being encrypted – Many sites use SSL, or secure sockets layer, to encrypt information.
- Use a credit card – There are laws to limit your liability for fraudulent credit card charges, and you may not have the same level of protection for your debit card.
- Check your statements – Keep a record of your purchases and copies of confirmation pages, and compare them to your bank statements. If there is a discrepancy, report it immediately.