Be cyber secure this holiday season!

During busy shopping seasons, online shoppers are especially vulnerable to cyber criminals hoping to steal credit card and other sensitive data. Here are some of the top measures you can take to secure your data and help ensure you don’t fall prey to online attacks.

  • Be on the lookout for phishing and smishing scams. Phishing is one of the main ways criminals can hack into your accounts — deceiving you into clicking dangerous links or taking other actions. Smishing is similar to phishing, except that malicious links are sent in Short Message Service (SMS) or text messages to scam you. When you recognize the signs of such scams, you can protect yourself better from identify and financial theft.
  • Set up Two-factor Authentication (2FA) services. This additional layer of protection prevents hackers from accessing your accounts, even if they obtain your login and password information via a phishing or smishing scam or malicious website. NC State requires employees to enroll in both Google 2-Step Verification and Duo Security to access many online campus services. Almost all other online service providers offer some form of 2FA as well. See Two Factor Auth (2FA).
  • Keep your software and systems up-to-date. You can take action to keep hackers away from your personal and financial data. Install the latest security patches and software updates on all of your devices to help prevent hackers from exploiting weaknesses in outdated apps. See NC State’s guide for Mobile Device Security and resources for antivirus software and other approved antivirus products.
  • Use trusted apps. Install only the mobile apps from trusted sources such as Android, Apple or Amazon app stores. Before you install an app, read the notifications from your device to learn how the app impacts your data privacy and security. Think carefully before giving up your privacy and providing access to sensitive data.
  • Keep unique and strong passwords. Refer to NC State’s Password Standard and suggestions on use of passphrases for password strength.
  • Be wary of delivery notifications. Phishers often send fake delivery notifications during the shopping season. Do not click delivery-notification links from emails you aren’t expecting. When tracking shipped deliverables, it is always best to go directly to USPS, UPS and FedEx websites.
  • Keep watch over your accounts. Credit cards often have no-fault protections against fraud when misuse is identified. Set up alerts for any card you use, whether debit or credit, and check your accounts regularly to help identify suspicious activity. Even the smallest charge could be a sign of fraud, so report anything you don’t recognize to your banking or credit card institution immediately.
  • Only shop using secure networks. Limit your use of public networks to general browsing. When using any unsecured network, don’t make purchases or access accounts; doing so leaves you visible and vulnerable to hackers.
  • Shop secure sites. Make sure the URL of any website you purchase from has https:// in the address bar during checkout. The “s” indicates a secure connection and encryption for your personal data during the buying process.
  • Shop trusted sites. Beware of clicking advertising links to unknown sites. Fraudulent sites post online ads to lure unsuspecting shoppers into sharing financial information. If a sale is too good to be true, it probably is! The same is true for sites boasting big giveaways and free software downloads. Shop well-known sites with good reputations. Consider using secure reputation software that provides ratings for trusted and untrusted sites.
  • Avoid fake charities. When making donations, research charitable organizations on Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau to avoid scams.