It’s hard to believe it but it’s nearly here: the holiday season is right around the corner, already. A festive time to share gifts of time and presents (presence, hopefully) with those we love and also a period of increased online activity. During the pre-holiday season, more and more of us are online to save a little time (and money) by shopping and buying stuff, making travel arrangements and more.
During this time of year, we face increased risks of running up against a range of not-so-festive stuff. We typically anticipate a 600-700% increase each year in the amount of malware and other nasty stuff flying around out there. This trend is likely to continue.
Here’s a friendly list of DO’s and DON’Ts to help protect you and yours this holiday season. Please – check it twice!
1. DO use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) anytime you connect to the internet. Period.
2. DO be sure to keep your computer’s operating system, applications, and antivirus up-to-date to keep clear of malware that can do all kinds of negative things like steal your identity, hold your information for ransom, and more nastiness.
3. DO uninstall stuff you don’t use regularly (apps). Keeping the amount of apps and services on your devices at a minimum will make you less vulnerable to foul play.
4. DO purchase goods and services online only from companies you know and trust, such as established sellers. We all want to find the best deals but be aware that bad guys are getting better and better at deceiving us into making mistakes. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
5. DO give yourself the gift of choosing and using a password manager to help you consistently use and keep track of strong passwords. It’s still a good defense.
No one enjoys having to remember passwords but this method helps us keep them strong yet easy to remember. Used in combination with two-factor authentication, it is still the best practice out there. Use it. Everywhere. If you’re using a site or service that doesn’t support it, request that they do! Your privacy and safety depend on it.
6. DON’T go online unless your PC, Mac, mobile or tablet device is up-to-date with the latest software updates. Update your devices regularly with the latest security patches by turning on auto-update features to help minimize risks. See #1 up top, again, too.
7. DON’T click on links or open attachments in email messages from unknown senders. It may only take only a single, misguided click to infect our computer or mobile device.
8. DON’T make hasty online purchases. Check out the seller, what you are buying and the payment details before you pay.
9. DON’T disclose personal or sensitive information online without first exercising caution. Verify why the information is needed and that it is absolutely necessary to give out. Keep in mind that security conscious banks and credit card companies will never urge anyone to send personal details by email or ask you to login to your account via a link provided in an email message – be alert to these kinds of fraudulent messages.
10. DON’T shop on sites that are not legit. It’s getting harder and harder to tell fake sites from real ones. We used to say, “If the URL begins with “https://” it’s a secure connection and safe to use” –> This is no longer true, as many nefarious sites are using HTTPS to trick more and more of us into doing something not awesome. If in doubt, use the company’s official app to make your purchase.
Computing safely doesn’t always come easy but together we can help everyone be more mindful and reduce these incidents. If you know anyone else who might benefit from this post, please share it!
Meanwhile, happy safe computing and Happy Holidays – may all your wishes come true.