Shop Smart: Amazing Cyber Deals Come with Amazing Cyber Risks
Stay safe out there while getting those online deals
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‘Tis the season to battle each other over deals. Much like Tinkerbell needs applause to live, I must spend money to thrive. This time of year is my Olympics, and it’s a problem for my wallet. But a bigger problem—not just for me, but for everyone shopping—is the security risks that inherently come with online purchasing.
I don’t think I’m alone in the sense that, if I see a wanted product go on sale at a nicely discounted price, the first thing on my mind is not “Is my privacy at risk? Am I jeopardizing anything by putting my information in here?” Unfortunately, this is something we all should think about first and foremost because it’s becoming an alarmingly large issue.
Especially now, during the holiday season. An article from Impact Networking highlights just how significant this weekend is, stating that “88 million Americans shopped online on Black Friday 2021. Additionally, 43% of the purchases were completed through mobile phones.” This kind of increase in shopping naturally brings about an increase in cyberattack attempts. While it is a huge hit to businesses when cyberattacks are successful (about 6.9 billion is lost to cyberattacks), the customers suffer, as well.
Who’s at Risk?
There is no ironclad vault that companies can put our information into where it’s untouchable. There are proactive steps that can be implemented (e.g., disaster recovery, risk analyses) that help create safety nets in case of emergencies, but nothing is ever foolproof. Nevertheless, it is imperative that businesses do everything they can to ensure their customers’ information remains secure. According to Forbes, “Cyberattacks on all businesses, but particularly small to medium sized businesses, are becoming more frequent, targeted, and complex,” with 43% of those attacks aimed at small businesses. It can happen to anyone at any point. And companies are disturbingly underprepared for cyberattacks (73%, according to Impact).
What Can be Done?
Be your own security team. Personally, if I feel wary of a site I don’t normally purchase from—which happened a lot in my mad search for an engagement party dress—I’ll google the site name and “legitimate” to see if any reviews pop up warning that it’s a scam. A simple search can yield a ton of results! Further steps that can help you avoid issues would be to watch out for things like phishing scams and ransomware, buy only from trusted/verified sites, and use multifactor authentication whenever possible. The aforementioned Impact article also suggests being suspicious of things such as:
- A sense of urgency (e.g., “Last chance to get 80% off”)
- An illegitimate e-mail address (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org [notice the double Ms and Ps as well as the addition of “shopp” to the url])
- Grammar or spelling errors
- Suspicious links (hover the cursor over them to see where they lead)
- Seemingly random attachments
My advice to businesses and consumers alike: Be aware of the magnitude of bad actors during the holiday season (and the rest of the year, too) and do what you can to thwart their malicious attempts! Like I said before, nothing is ironclad. But, by going into your endeavors with the knowledge that this is a high-risk time and by being mindful of things you’re exposed to, you can arm yourself with at least a few tools to avoid falling victim to scams.
Be safe, be smart, and happy holiday shopping!
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