Don’t get cy­ber Scrooged! Tips for on­line shop­ping

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -


‘Tis the sea­son to be jolly - but it’s also the sea­son for iden­tity theft, phish­ing and credit card fraud. With Christ­mas just days away, peo­ple are us­ing their smart­phones and other de­vices to get a han­dle on their last­minute shop­ping. Hack­ers are on the hunt as well, look­ing to steal per­sonal in­for­ma­tion from easy tar­gets.

“Peo­ple just need to have their radar up, so that when they’re try­ing to get their per­fect gift to grandma’s house in time for Christ­mas day, they’re not click­ing on things they shouldn’t,” says Michael Kaiser, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Cy­ber Se­cu­rity Al­liance.

We’ve writ­ten ear­lier on how to avoid hol­i­day scams in gen­eral, both of the tech­nol­ogy kind and oth­er­wise: . Here are some other tips for stay­ing safe this hol­i­day sea­son.


Make sure your phone’s op­er­at­ing sys­tem and all the apps you use to shop are up to date.

That way you’ll have the fixes for any re­cently dis­cov­ered se­cu­rity prob­lems. You should also en­able multi-fac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion in the set­tings on your im­por­tant ac­counts. This is a se­cu­rity mea­sure that re­quires you to en­ter a tem­po­rary code in ad­di­tion to your pass­word when sign­ing in; ser­vices of­ten text this code to your phone. It com­pli­cates life for hack­ers should they some­how man­age to get your pass­word.

Im­prove­ments in credit card fraud de­tec­tion have pushed hack­ers to fo­cus on steal­ing le­git­i­mate lo­gin cre­den­tials, so adding an extra layer of pro­tec­tion to these ac­counts is a must, says John Dick­son with the cy­ber­se­cu­rity firm Denim Group. And while some cy­ber­se­cu­rity ex­perts ques­tion the value of chang­ing your pass­word fre­quently, Dick­son says it’s not a bad idea this time of year. “If you had a New Year’s res­o­lu­tion to change your pass­words, move that up by about four weeks, be­cause this is fraud­ster sea­son,” Dick­son says.


No­body likes to dip into their mo­bile-data plan, but you might want to set aside a few gi­ga­bytes for your hol­i­day shop­ping. Sign­ing on to free Wi-Fi at a store or cof­fee shop can be risky. Hack­ers could be lurk­ing on the net­works, ready to use that con­nec­tion to steal credit-card num­bers or other per­sonal in­for­ma­tion. If you’re us­ing free Wi-Fi, at least wait till you get home to check your bank ac­count bal­ances, Kaiser says.


Phish­ing spikes dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son. Emails that of­fer great deals on hol­i­day gifts or do­na­tion pitches from char­i­ties could ac­tu­ally be at­tempts to steal your credit card or lo­gin in­for­ma­tion. An­other pop­u­lar trick: Fake emails sup­pos­edly sent by on­line re­tail­ers or ship­ping com­pa­nies. Don’t click on links in these emails, as they may lead you to a fake web­site that looks le­git­i­mate. In­stead, type in the com­pany’s web­site di­rectly.


Shop­pers need to keep a close eye on their ac­counts. The eas­i­est way to do this is to use the same credit card for all of your hol­i­day shop­ping. Avoid debit cards - run­ning up a credit card bal­ance is one thing and can be chal­lenged; drain­ing your life’s sav­ings is an­other.

Use dif­fer­ent pass­words for your var­i­ous shop­ping ac­counts. That way if one is com­pro­mised, it’s less likely that the oth­ers will fall to hack­ers as well.


Web­sites that ad­ver­tise hot deals on pop­u­lar or hard-tofind gifts are prob­a­bly scams. So are those tout­ing free or deeply dis­counted gift cards. Stick with e-com­merce sites you know are real. Don’t click on web ads.

And if some­thing ad­ver­tised on a web­site or social media looks too good to be true, it prob­a­bly is, says Brian Reed, chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer for ZeroFox, a cy­ber­se­cu­rity firm that fo­cuses on social media.

In­stead of get­ting a great deal on a North Face jacket or a free iPhone, shop­pers are get­ting their money and per­sonal in­for­ma­tion stolen. Also avoid apps that promise to gen­er­ate gift card codes for var­i­ous re­tail­ers, Reed says. —AP

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