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7 Min Read

How Families and Parents Can Stay Secure While Shopping Online This Holiday Season

November 19, 2020 / Unisys Corporation

Though COVID-19 has completely upended 2020 for people the world over, the upcoming holiday season represents an opportunity for many to feel a sense of normalcy. Even if the manner in which we celebrate the holiday season this year is slightly different from years past, the reality is that many customs and time spent with immediate family can still bring comfort and joy to millions of people. However, if not careful, this time of year can also bring serious security risks as hackers look to take advantage of people’s propensity to shop for gifts, deals or merchandise.

Consider that already, experts predict online sales to reach $189 billion this holiday season, up 33% over 2019. Couple that with the fact that the 2020 Unisys Security Index™ – the longest-running snapshot of consumer security concerns conducted globally – found that less than one in three (31%) of Americans expressed concern about their data security while working or shopping from home, and it suggests that a false sense of security may be leaving people vulnerable.

Playing Defense – Tricks to Watch For

So, if online shopping is expected to rise, what should consumers watch out for? While attack methods continue to evolve, there are a few common scams that people need to be mindful of. For starters, the holiday season is a great time of year to give back through charitable donations, and hackers know it. And social media is renowned for its ability to spotlight people who might need assistance through platforms like GoFundMe. Consumers need to be wary of solicitations seen on social media – make sure it’s a trusted source. Or, when in doubt, go directly to a website or organization that you trust.

Another common attack method is for hackers to try and entice people by posing as vendors offering great “buy now” Black Friday deals. For starters, be wary of especially large discounts — if a deal looks too good to be true, it usually is. And, we encourage people to do their homework before buying – look up product reviews and information on the seller to see if it is legitimate.

Lastly, as more people order online, people expect more shipments to come through the mail. In fact, last year the U.S. Postal Service delivered more than 20 million packages per day during the holiday season! As more packages are sent out, hackers look to ramp up phishing attacks by posing as sellers offering shipping status updates. Make sure to look at the email address of the sender to see if it looks legitimate, and hover over any links before clicking on them to make sure they direct you to the intended website.

Playing Offense – Proactive Steps to Protect Yourself

In order to stay safe while shopping or seeking to take advantage of deals this holiday season, there are a few things you can do to proactively protect yourself online.

  1. Patch your home IoT devices. Make sure you are protecting your Wi-Fi network and any device around the house connected to your network by patching and updating to the latest firmware and checking the brand and model for security risks. It is also important to change default passwords and use passwords of significant strength (greater than eight characters with three of the following four (upper case, lower case, number, special character). Do not use words or deviations of words as passwords.
  2. Multi-factor authentication is not just for businesses. If you’ve ever had to use a verification code texted to your cell phone to log into a personal bank or credit card account, you’re at least vaguely familiar with the concept of two-factor or multi-factor authentication (MFA). Today, consumers can choose from additional authentication options, as many apps offer MFA options. In this instance, consumers have the option of setting up voice or facial recognition-based access, or to receive push notifications if a new or unauthorized login is detected.
  3. Make sure you’re using secure sites. It’s important to use secure resources when shopping, especially for any site that asks you to input credit card or bank account data to complete a purchase. Make sure you only use trusted, verified sites that you are familiar with, and be sure to type the URL into your browser rather than risk inadvertently clicking a malicious link.

As we all prepare to enjoy the festive nature of the upcoming holiday season, it is important to keep your guard up. By taking basic precautions and keeping your cyber defenses up, you will be able to delight in the best of what the season has to offer.