2020 Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Online Shoppers & Digital Privacy
October is home to Thanksgiving and Halloween, but did you know it’s also Cybersecurity Awareness Month? With the holiday shopping season approaching, we want to discuss how to save you money and avoid debt incurred when personal data is compromised on the internet. We have a couple of digital privacy guidelines for seasonal online shoppers. We’ll look at four ways to protect your digital privacy from hackers, and malware software this holiday when you make online purchases.
1. How To Safely Use Public Wireless Networks
Public wireless networks are available for free at many locations. You can find free Wi-Fi everywhere from local coffee shops to Metrobus – public transit. While free Wi-Fi can be great for doing a quick Google search, use extra caution since it can put your personal data at risk.
When using public Wi-Fi, it’s best to avoid accessing personal information, such as your e-mail, or personal bank chequing account. That’s because there’s a lot higher of a chance that public Wi-Fi has been compromised in some way than a private network.
Most public Wi-Fi networks aren’t encrypted. This makes it easier for you to log in, but it also presents an opportunity for hackers to swoop in, breach the data, and steal your sensitive data, including your passwords.
Rule of Thumb: Use a VPN
To prevent hackers from stealing your personal data, you might consider setting up a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN is a secure, encrypted “tunnel” to connect with the internet. This helps stop hackers from eavesdropping on your online data. VPNs secure user data not sent over a secure connection, especially free wi-fi connection.
Establishing a VPN can be set up from home servers or using VPN service providers. Either way of accessing the internet through free wi-fi using a VPN will provide secure access to any local and international networks.
When using public Wi-Fi, make sure you are accessing the internet securely through a VPN. This will keep hackers from seeing and stealing your personal credit card data. Avoid directly accessing shopping cart using public (free) wi-fi.
Rule of Thumb: Utilize Secure Connections or HTTPS Whenever Possible
When possible only shop on websites that use secure connections or HTTPS. Avoid non-secure websites that use “HTTP://”, which allows personal data & information to be sent in plain text. Http is not a secure connection. There’s very little stopping a hacker from intercepting your information on Http. While this isn’t a big deal when you’re surfing the web for fun, it is a big deal if you intend on purchasing from an unsecured Http website address. Avoid entering personal information and credentials such as email, address, telephone, and payment information on unsecured websites.
You can set your personal mobile devices to use secure Https connections as a preference. Some of the largest websites have settings to force your device to use a secure connection. For example, Google.ca sends you to its secure version of its website when you’re signed into your Google Accounts.
HTTPS ensures a secure connection is made using SSL security. Certificates are used to check a website’s identity. If a certificate isn’t signed correctly, you’ll receive a warning. It’s best to avoid visiting websites where you get this warning or else you risk your personal data being compromised.
2. Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) Security
Often secure platforms and software require multi-factor authentication these days. It is an optional feature, but it’s highly advisable that you turn it on when it is offered. 2FA requires a minimum of two pieces of data to confirm your identity.
What is Multi-factor verification?
Multi-factor verification is to make sure you are who you say you are. Two-factor authentication security is when you’re required to verify your identity in two separate ways from an unrecognized or “new device”. This is done by asking the users to provide information to confirm their identity before access of the information being requested. What makes multi-factor authentication great is that if one of the factors has been stolen and compromised by a hacker, chances are pretty slim that the other factors will be compromised as well. This provides online users with a higher level of confidence that their data will remain safe and secure.
Rule of Thumb: Enable Online Factor Authentication
Although the settings are different for every website and software application, you can usually turn it on once you’re logged into the platform from the settings.
Most email and banking websites encourage you to use two-factor authentication to access personal information. A chequing account login may be compromised by checking account transactions while shopping online. The hackers would be required to enter login credentials and confirm a separate security code verification.
The best advice is to have verification codes sent as a text message to your phone and avoid email verification. That’s because if hackers got access to your personal data, it wouldn’t be hard for them to gain access to personal information through two-factor verification via email as well.
Rule of Thumb: Create Strong Passwords
It’s a good idea to regularly update your passwords. Change you’re your password if you access it from a public network as soon as possible. When creating online profiles, choose a strong password by creating one that is not easily guessable. Do not use things that are easy to guess like your street name or favorite sports team. Instead, choose a password that a hacker wouldn’t be able to guess by creating a secure password using random characters.
Strong passwords have at least one with upper case letters and include lower-case letters, numbers, and other random characters. Websites have rules about the passwords they’ll accept. You will want to be sure to use different passwords for different websites, rather than the same one for multiple websites.
3. Avoid Public Workstations and Devices for Online Purchases
Public workstations and devices are often the targets of cybercriminals. Recently, the staff at Concordia University library found keyloggers spyware on some of their library computer workstations. Keyloggers spyware captures everything from login information to passwords; pretty much anything that you type at the workstation. In response to this, the university increased its security for these workstations.
This is just an example of spyware hackers have in place on public workstations and devices. Public computers are often the target of hackers because many unsuspecting online shoppers make purchases on the web from public workstations.
Rule of Thumb: Avoid Shopping from Public Work, Instead Browse
The best way to protect your digital privacy while shopping is to avoid entering personal debt and credit card information on public computers altogether. Try using public computers for general searches. Finding the perfect holiday gift can be a challenge and it takes tons of online browsing time. Instead, use public workstations to narrow down gift ideas.
4. Use Virtual Credit Cards or Retail Gift Card for Online Shopping Carts
This gift-giving season spending money online will require a form of digital payment. Cybercriminals are in overdrive waiting to collect your financial information for personal gain. This can leave fraud victims in years of credit card debt, depleted cash fund accounts, and irreparable credit damage. Avoid using revolving credit cards and personal banking debit card numbers online. Instead, use cards with limited spend amounts uploaded to retailer gift cards and credit cards.
Rule of Thumb: Try Virtual Credit Cards
A good way to protect yourself when shopping online is to use a virtual credit card. A virtual credit card has a unique set of numbers that you can use to purchase a good or service online without using your actual credit card numbers. You can even choose a virtual credit card number for a one-time purchase. You may also be able to choose a maximum spend or expiration date for your virtual credit card number.
If you’re concerned that your virtual credit card number may have been compromised by hackers, you may lock or delete it. You could then choose a new virtual credit card number to go ahead and make other purchases.
Rule of Thumb: Buy Reloadable Gift Cards
Another option is to use a retail gift card for online shopping carts. All the major credit card companies – Mastercard, Visa, and Amex – offer retail credit cards. Those credit cards are often reloadable. Once you spend the preloaded balance on the card, you can load more funds onto the card. However, keep in mind that you may not have as much protection as you would from a traditional credit card.
e-Commerce Credit Card Fraud
No one wants to be scammed for shopping online. However online cybercrime is in peak season from October through December. Ecommerce giants anticipate the spike in sales and offer competitive sales prices to save you money. Although responsible spending can benefit revolving cardholders’ credit scores, compromising digital privacy can tip the scales towards massive financial debt, frozen assets, and emotional distress. Should you suspect credit card fraud because of cyber-criminal activities online report it to your credit card company and the authorities right away. By reporting the crime to the authorities, you can help track down the hacker and prevent her or him from doing this to anyone else.
Although online spending of retail gift cards will not count towards your credit score, it will save you the snowball effect of having to cancel credit cards and close accounts which often have reoccurring withdrawals and monthly deposit payments attached to them.
How to Protect your Digital Privacy
Avoiding cyber hackers this holiday season while you shop for online purchases is important to securing your digital privacy on the web. Cybersecurity Awareness Month comes with the lure of temptations by online retailers. Money-saving internet promotions, bargains, and sales all lead to e-commerce shopping carts. Keep in mind the above advice to avoid having to cancel compromised credit cards and bank accounts for impulsive online purchases, otherwise, it can lead to irreparable damage. If your credit rating and financial resources have been exhausted by online hackers, speak with a Credit Counsellor today. Find out your available options with a credit counsellor to possibly repair your credit or for consumer proposal debt consolidation. Call (844) 331-6842 to learn more.