6 Ways to Stay Secure Online this Christmas

With only a week to go to the big day, we’re all getting into the festive spirit and as always there are some last-minute presents left to buy, it happens to everyone!  But don’t let those last-minute purchases or January bargain deals cost a lot more than you expected.  We’ve a few tips to help you stay safe when shopping online this festive season.

1. Hook up to a network that you know.

Free Wi-Fi is tempting, but be sure that you consider who is providing the connection. Public connections at the local coffee shop are usually unsecured and leave your machine open to outsiders and potential identify theft.  This applies to cell phones, too, since you’re often using nearby Wi-Fi. Be aware when you’re using a hotspot that any information you send through the Internet could be picked up by strangers; if it’s information that could make you vulnerable, wait until you get home to your protected network.   While these networks provide a convenience, there are risks to be aware of.

2. Be extra careful when using your mobile phone.

Most of us shop on our phones nowadays but these devices are not as protected against viruses as our desktops making it’s easier for criminals to get malware on your mobile device that could help them steal information you enter. Shortened URLs that are which are regularly used on mobile phones makes it harder to tell whether it’s secure or trusted.

3. Update your browser.

Each new version of your Internet browser, especially if you use one of the more popular browsers, gets a boost in security.  Older browsers often have holes in their security that hackers have discovered and can exploit.  The same goes for your operating system and anti-virus software.  Updates will keep you ahead of fraudulent attached and help keep your personal information safe.

4. Bank and shop with caution.

Shopping from familiar websites is a good place to start. Stick with the reputable sites that are tried and true – like Amazon or eBay. Also, when checking out and finalizing the purchase, look for the ‘padlock’ symbol or the abbreviation ‘https’ in the address bar at the top of your browser. This will ensure that you are on a secure, encrypted part of this webpage.  If at any time during the shopping or checkout process you feel like the site is asking for too much personal information, just quit the transaction and leave the site.  Keeping an eye on your bank statements for suspicious activity is always a good idea, among these other best practices for shopping online.

5. Use secure passwords.

Passwords for logging into any website should contain a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters, using a sentence with a least 12 characters is a strong password.  Remember to change your password regularly, a good guide is to change every 3 to 6 months and always use different passwords for each website that you log into.  It can definitely be a pain to remember all of these passwords, but ask yourself which is more of a pain – remembering these, or recovering stolen personal information.

6. Do not click on anything unfamiliar.

If an offer is too good to be true, it probably is.  If you get an email from an unknown source, do not click any of the links within it.  Many phishing scams involve emails from what seem like legitimate sites — banks, online stores, anything you might trust — and then send you to a phony site where they can gather your information.

If you get an email from a site where you’ve shopped before, make sure you don’t follow the links and don’t provide any financial or personal information the email requests. Real sites won’t ask for important information over email.

If a window pops up while browsing a website, immediately close it. Familiarity is always your friend.  Using your judgement and trusting your gut is the ultimate defence when online. Always play it safe!