According to Nick Blake, Cyber Security Consultant at Gemserv ”In the lead up to Cyber Monday and the holiday season, it’s important to ensure we all take precautions in order to stay safe online. Things as simple as changing your password can make a great deal of difference between a cyber-attack and a harmless online purchase”.
Cyber Monday was created by retailers to encourage consumers to shop online by offering discounts and promotions. With varying degrees of lockdown restrictions active across the country, this year’s Cyber Monday falls on 30 November and is predicted to see higher rates of online shopping than usual.
The pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world and triggered changes in online shopping behaviours that are likely to have lasting effects. More than half of UK consumers are now shopping online, and UK online spend is forecast to increase 29.6% between now and 2024, according to retail analysts at GlobalData.
Now more than ever, it’s important to take precautions in order to stay safe online. Therefore, we’ve put together an ‘online toolbox’ with five tips to help you stay safe online during Cyber Monday and beyond.
We all understand the need to have a strong password, but do we really know what that means? The National Cyber Security Centre’s advice is to create a long password by using three random words. The longer and more unusual your password is, the stronger it becomes and the harder it is to hack. You can make it even stronger with special characters, such as using a passphrase, for example: Thisisan3xampleofastrongpass.
A strong password reduces your risk of compromise, even if your password is known. It’s critical that your passwords and accounts are not subject to brute force attacks (guessing), and that they aren’t reused across multiple websites. For example, don’t reuse your Facebook password for your Amazon account.
- Password Strength Testers analyse how safe your passwords are.
- If you’re worried your password or email may have been leaked, you can perform a free check on Have I Been Pwned.
During Cyber Monday and in the run up to the holiday season, you should be wary of deals that seem too good to be true, as they usually are! Don’t be lured into clicking “free” offers and disclosing too much information to websites that seem untrustworthy.
- You can use tools such as ‘isitphising’ and ‘wheregoes’ to find out the types of websites you’re planning to visit before you even click the link.
Have you noticed the padlock that is present on almost all websites? It’s usually located on the left-hand side of your browser bar. The padlock symbol represents websites that have a valid certificate and are usually trustworthy. Alongside this padlock is the URL of your website beginning with httpS, not just http – the S stands for Secure! If the website doesn’t have a padlock and isn’t using HTTPS, our advice would be to stay well away!
- You can use websites like SSL Shopper to check the authenticity of your Padlock (certificate).
Using Antivirus and System Updates
Did you know that the ransomware WannaCry attack that affected the NHS and many more in 2017 could’ve been prevented by a patch released by Microsoft two months prior? It’s important ensure your machine is updated with the latest security patches to prevent new vulnerabilities. There is a reason your IT department asks you to restart your computer and ensure all updates have been installed.
Use of antivirus is imperative to detecting and defending you when connecting to the internet. A computer without antivirus is an open-door invitation to attackers and even free antiviruses are better than no antivirus at all.
- You can find a list of reputable free antiviruses.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
A VPN will create a secure (encrypted) tunnel so that nobody else is able to snoop on the information that is passing through your connection. Be cautious of connecting to a free public Wi-Fi as the signal could be coming from a different location. Even if you’re working from home, the use of a VPN is a good idea to safeguard your passwords, card details and other personal information.
- You can see a list of free VPNs, but there are also premium options available.
Gemserv aims to educate users who haven’t thought about their security online and remind even those of us working in these areas every day. We hope these tools can help establish awareness on the common techniques cyber criminals are using to compromise your personal information. Stay safe online this holiday season and happy shopping!
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