Protecting Yourself from Cyber Threats During Black Friday Shopping

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As Black Friday approaches, shoppers eagerly await the best deals and discounts. However, in the digital age, shoppers should also be vigilant about protecting themselves from cyber threats. To help you shop securely, we've gathered insights from a recent interview with Kurt Sanger, a Cybersecurity Expert at Batten Safe and former U.S. Cyber Command Deputy General Counsel.

Christmas online shopping for gifts, laptop, credit card and New Year decorations on the table with Christmas lights

Image: marinesea, iStock

Increased cyber threats during the holidays

Sanger points out that cybercriminals tend to target individuals who may be less cautious during the holiday season. Shoppers can be in a hurry to find the best deals and may not take the time to inspect websites thoroughly. This rush and distraction can make you more susceptible to cyber threats. Criminals capitalize on this by using deceptive links and advertisements to exploit users.

Primary threats to watch out for

One of the tactics cybercriminals employ during Black Friday and throughout the holiday season is the use of deceptive links. These links may appear to be associated with reputable companies, but appearances can be deceiving. When you click on such a link, you unwittingly invite the system on the other end to send data to your device. This data includes instructions that can allow hackers to take control of specific functions on your device and potentially steal sensitive information.

What shoppers should pay attention to

To protect yourself while shopping online, Sanger says it's crucial to pay attention to the following:

  1. Web addresses: Inspect the web addresses (URLs) of the websites you visit. Don't rely solely on the information displayed on a webpage, as cybercriminals can make fraudulent websites appear convincing.
  2. Advertisements: Be cautious of online advertisements, especially if they seem too good to be true. Cybercriminals often create fake ads that lead to malicious websites that exploit your personal information.

How to mitigate the risks

Sanger offers the following tips to help shoppers stay safe during Black Friday and holiday shopping:

  • Verify the website: Instead of clicking on an ad, go directly to the advertiser's website and search for the product or deal. This extra step ensures you're purchasing from a legitimate organization. It can be easier to confirm for well-known companies, but with some online research, you can do this for smaller businesses, too.
  • Use strong passwords: Ensure your online shopping accounts have strong, unique passwords. You should ever use the same password for multiple accounts. A password manager can help you keep track of your login credentials securely.
  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA): Set up and enable MFA on your online shopping accounts whenever possible. MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring you to provide two or more forms of verification before gaining access to your account.
    d. Keep software updated: Regularly update your device's operating system, web browsers, and antivirus software to patch known vulnerabilities and enhance security.

Remember to prioritize your online security as the holiday season approaches and those Black Friday deals tempt you. Cyber threats are prevalent, but by staying vigilant, inspecting web addresses, and verifying the authenticity of websites and advertisements, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to cyberattacks. With these precautions, you can enjoy holiday shopping while keeping your personal and financial information safe.

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Disclaimer: Portions of this article were assisted by automation technology. All content therein has been augmented, thoroughly edited, and fact-checked by our in-house editorial staff of human safety experts.

Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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