Do you remember those good old days when Black Friday was simply the fourth Thursday of November?
Not anymore, retailers have officially created a monster – Black Friday is no longer a one-day shopping bonanza on the day after Thanksgiving, it now is a newly formed shopping season that starts right after Halloween and can continue for weeks after Thanksgiving, paving the way for the Christmas shopping season.
Every year retailers are determined to get the most out of the shopping mood that engulfs deal-seekers around Thanksgiving.
It is not uncommon for major retailers to voluntarily “leak” Black Friday deals ahead of the special day. This year Kohl’s and Target “incidentally” ended up disclosing their Black Friday deals nearly four weeks before the holiday. However, while the leaks from Target and Kohl’s are legitimate, cybercriminals also start being active during shopping seasons – they want a piece of the pie. This is why we’ve created a list with tips that give you an idea how to take advantage of those early deals safely so you can enjoy Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping.
One of the most common mistakes that online shoppers do is to perform transactions on websites that do not support the secure version of HTTP. If the site you are entering lacks a little padlock next to the URL, it may be time to move on to the next website that offers the same product but has a secure connection. Information transmitted over HTTP can be easily recorded. Sometimes even the website owners do not know that the data of their clients is being stolen by a third party. Always make sure that the URL of the store you are visiting starts with HTTPS.
Having antivirus software installed on the devices you use to make online purchases is as essential as having insurance on your car. Quality antivirus software will prevent you from even entering shady websites; it will keep you safe while you browse by stopping malicious processes overtake your device, it will filter your emails and will always notify you if something does not look quite right. Antivirus software companies spend millions of dollars on research and development and have dedicated teams who make sure you are not an easy target. Take advantage!
Registering on random websites here and there might be tempting while you look for the next Cyber Monday deal but some of the sites that you visit may not be as secure and may try to steal your login details and use them elsewhere. One of the best ways to prevent this from happening is not to use the same password on different websites. Instead, write down your password on a physical paper and store it safely, or use a password manager. Nearly half of the people living in the western world admit that they reuse their password on multiple websites. This means that if one of these websites gets hacked, hackers will be able to gain access to your other legitimate accounts.
Update your OS and also your software
Do you remember that we mentioned that IT security experts are always updating different aspects of the products they develop? It is an ongoing process. Updates not only make your products better but also patch vulnerabilities. So if you decide not to update your software or operating system, the work of the IT security experts is useless as the vulnerabilities that they’ve managed to patch remain unfixed on your device. This is one of the reasons, so many hospitals get hacked, they simply do not have the time to reboot and update.
If you receive a Black Friday deal in an email that rushes you to buy something at a fantastic price, and you do not recognize the email or the outlet that is approaching you, just ignore it. Do not click on any of the links inside and if possible, do not even open the email. Just move it to your junk folder and move on with your life. The time around Thanksgiving and Christmas is one of the best times for hackers wanting to steal your hard earned cash – they know that you are in a shopping mood.
You have to be cautious and avoid deals that are too good to be true. If you receive a text message giving you a 95% off Ray Ban sunglasses, or the latest iPhone XR for a couple of hundred dollars, you are most likely being scammed. What makes things worse is that your email or phone number has been sourced by criminals who openly believe that you aren’t sharp enough and you may fall for such a trick. Don’t meet their expectations. Last but not least, getting scammed does not mean that you are only losing your money. By being scammed, your hard-earned cash ends up in the hands of people who may be supporting causes that actively work against your beliefs and culture.
Public Wi-Fi networks
Yes we get it, data is expensive, and your monthly wireless bill is getting higher and higher. Next time you are on lunch break enjoying a meal away from the office you may feel tempted to join those free Wi-Fi networks you see. However, don’t do it, especially when you are shopping. When you join an unsecured Wi-Fi network every person with average IT knowledge will be able to see your online activity, and possibly even record everything that you type. This includes card details, SSN, passwords, etc. If you want to use Wi-Fi and you want to have a secure connection, you have to connect to a VPN. When your traffic goes through a VPN, hackers or the administrator of the network, won’t find it as easy to trace your online activities.
If you are not a big fan of credit cards, we still advise you to use one for the online purchases. This does not mean that you have to carry your balance, you can pay it right off. If somehow hackers manage to steal money from your checking account it won’t be easy to claim it back. However, most credit cards come with insurance so even if you end up being a victim of a cybercrime, your credit card company may reimburse you. However, it is always best to be cautious and simply avoid becoming a victim.
It is Black Friday season – looking for sweet deals and buying presents for your loved ones must be a fun experience. If you stay vigilant and you protect your devices, you will end up enjoying the online shopping.
We all deserve a little shopping therapy and the Black Friday season is the perfect time to do it!