With the holiday season approaching, online shopping will be at an annual high, and cybercriminals will be lurking to steal your personal data for financial gain.
Stay safe this season:
- Look out for phishing and smishing attacks. Phishing is one of the primary ways criminals hack into your accounts — for example, deceiving you into clicking dangerous links from email messages that appear to be legitimate. Smishing is similar to phishing, except that malicious links are sent in Short Message Service (SMS) or text messages. When you recognize the signs of scams, you can protect yourself from identity theft and subsequent financial catastrophe.
- Be wary of delivery notifications. Phishers send fake delivery notifications during the holiday shopping season. Do not click delivery-notification links from emails you aren’t expecting. When tracking shipped deliverables, it is always safe to go directly to USPS, UPS and FedEx websites instead.
- Make all your passwords unique and strong. Change your password or passphrase regularly, never use one password for more than one account, and use a password manager to store your passwords (e.g., LastPass, KeePass). For more details about passwords, visit the NC State Password Standard web page.
- Set up Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). Using two or more ways to log into your accounts prevents hackers from accessing your accounts, even if they obtain your login and password through phishing or other malicious activities. For example, some mobile devices allow you to set up a fingerprint scan. An ever-growing number of services already support 2FA, including Facebook, Tumblr, eBay, PayPal, Twitter, and online banking. To learn more about who supports 2FA, visit Two Factor Auth (2FA). You are also encouraged to read each company’s documentation thoroughly to understand how 2FA works with their service.
- Shop only on secure networks. When connecting to the internet over public and unsecured networks, don’t sign in to any of your accounts. Wait to do your online shopping until you return to the safety of a private, secure Wi-Fi connection.
- Shop only on secure sites. Check the website address where you are shopping and make sure you purchase only from websites displaying a locked padlock icon to the left of the address or those with https:// at the beginning of the address. The “s” indicates a secure connection that encrypts your personal information. If a shopping website is not secure, do not use it.