As we draw closer to the year’s end we prepare to celebrate with friends and family. Intermixed with major discount sales and holiday events, however, is the undercurrent of cyber danger. The holidays are a barrage of messages from relatives and close relationships, providing the ideal foundation for phishing scams or social engineering schema. Among those risks are a plethora of common mistakes regarding personal cybersecurity.
Scams are plentiful, sometimes in the form of “charities” or even discount websites. Since malicious actors take advantage of “hot button” topics or trending searches, the holidays are perfect for this. No doubt you want to avoid your Thanksgiving, Christmas, and end-of-year holiday from turning into a stressful one. Therefore, we’ve assembled a cheat sheet of mistakes to avoid and what to watch out for.
Holiday Cybersecurity Scams
As mentioned, scams and phishing are the big ones to watch out for. Threat actors not only rely on holiday-themed events but contacts too. Around this time of the year, messages from loved ones, friends, and professional relationships are common. You’re less likely to assume an incoming message – like email and text – is a potential scammer. These messages from “trusted” contacts might request you to click a link or visit a website. But like any phishing message, these links transfer the user to malicious domains.
What those domains contain varies, but it’s safe to assume they deliver malware payloads or steal contact information.
During the season, be extra mindful of messages from contacts asking you to click links, especially if you’re not expecting them. Warn friends, family, and coworkers to also look out for messages that appear suspicious.
Update Apps and Anti-Virus
Your anti-malware software should update automatically. If not, however, be sure it is running the latest version. During the busy holiday season, it’s easy to forget the small things. As another tip, keep an eye out for discounts and holiday specials involving anti-virus software. It’s a great way to get annual plans for cheaper rates.
Note: If you’re on the prowl for different anti-virus software applications, make sure both the vendor and application are safe.
The holiday seasons also see a lot of travel. Whether flying or on the road, you’ll no doubt bring along important devices. However, this can invite unintended risks to your devices and even expose valuable data and info.
A few things to remember if you’re traveling: avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi networks when possible. But if you have to, limit what you access on the go. Critical information like passwords and logins can be viewed on non-encrypted networks. If available, use a hotspot or data connection you can trust.
But be mindful of where you store your devices and how many you bring along. Losing a device can wreak havoc on personal security. A great way to avoid loss is tracking your devices with apps and storing them in their bag so you remember where they are – or should be.
Watch out for public internet connections
As mentioned, travel is common throughout the holiday season. Not only is there some risk of losing your personal devices – like smartphones, laptops, and tablets – but connecting to unsafe wireless connections is a risk too. These are typically available at hotels and airports. If you have to use them, it’s better to use them for general browsing instead of accessing valuable accounts over unsafe, unencrypted networks.
Avoid short links and suspicious links via social media
If you use popular social media platforms to talk about the holidays or read messages from friends/family, the rules are the same with emails. Avoid clicking on suspicious links (called short links), especially if they sound unusual. Family members requesting you donate money or showcasing strange websites are simple ways malicious actors impersonate trusted contacts.
Second guess if you’re not sure
Finally, a great rule of thumb is to double-check messages, alerts, or warnings if you are not positive it’s from a trusted sender. Hackers rely on emotional charges, trusted contracts, and relevant events to achieve success.
Stay safe this season and always be on the lookout for holiday-related scams.