NOVEMBER 30, 2012
This holiday season, Americans will spend billions of dollars shopping online for gifts. The number of consumers who will make internet purchases is predicted to increase 37% from last year. The incredible amount of money spent on transactions over the internet presents a tempting target for criminal hackers seeking to poach private data and steal accounts from unsuspecting users.
There are certain things that consumers can do to protect themselves and their personal information while shopping online:
- Make sure that your computer or phone’s web browser is completely up-to-date, will all security patches installed.
- Enable your computer’s firewall settings to block unwanted internet connections, especially in a corporate environment.
- Never click on a link in an unsolicited text message, email, or social networking post unless you are absolutely certain it is legitimate. Holiday scams surrounding free giveaways, charity donations, or discounts are very prevalent on social networking sites especially, and clicking a link could lead you to a criminal’s website that installs a virus on your computer or otherwise attempts to defraud you.
- Be especially careful about visiting web pages and making purchases on your smartphone. The explosive growth in the use of smartphones has made them the number one new target for hackers. Hackers know that smartphones often contain large amounts of personal data, with people checking their bank accounts and making purchases more and more from their phones. Therefore, be extremely careful about downloading and using free applications from unknown authors, since they can contain back doors that give criminals access to the information on your phone.
- Avoid using a debit card to make online purchases. Credit cards are usually a better choice, because credit card companies generally protect you from fraudulent purchases made on your card. On the other hand, debit cards are a direct line into the cash in your checking account, and typically you will not be reimbursed if hackers make purchases or transfer money from these accounts without your knowledge.
- Use common sense. The old advice holds true: a deal that looks too good to be true, probably is. Often, scammers and spammers will hijack a person’s email or social networking, and then send a message containing a link to a virus to all of their friends and contacts. Instead of rushing to click a link in an email from a friend, you can reply to that person and make sure that they actually sent you the message and that it’s a legitimate link.
Guidepost Solutions has a team of internet security experts that can fortify your organization’s network against security threats.
Bart M. Schwartz is the chairman of Guidepost Solutions LLC, a global leader in investigations, due diligence, security and technology consulting, immigration and cross-border consulting, and monitoring and compliance solutions.