As we shop on the Internet and send each other electronic greetings, here is a special holiday reminder on Internet safety, provided by UHN Digital:
1. Watch out for suspicious emails or messages
More email scammers tend to appear during the holidays, luring shoppers with fake special deals and tricking them into revealing personal information. Don’t open an email from a person you don’t know or a site you haven’t visited before.
2. Be suspicious of emails that seem to come from people you know asking you to do something unexpected
Phishing campaigns often pretend to be coming from a trusted friend or colleague and rely on you not checking the actual email address of the sender. In some cases, the cyber-attacker uses the internet to research their intended victim and people their victim interacts with, like your manager, CEO or co-worker. The cyber attacker then crafts an email pretending to be one of these people and sends it to you. When in doubt, check with your friend or colleague via alternate methods.
3. Look out for messages designed to make you panic
A message may claim that your account has been compromised and the only way to verify it is to enter your login details. Alternatively, an email might state that your account will be closed if you do not act immediately. Ensure that you take the time to really think about whether an email is asking something reasonable of you. If you’re unsure, contact the company through other methods.
4. Look out for website and email addresses that do not look legitimate
It is often the case that a phishing email will come from an address that appears to be genuine, with the aim of trying to trick recipients by including the name of a legitimate company within the structure of email or website addresses. If you only glance at these details they can look very real, but if you closely examine the address you may find that it’s a bogus variation intended to appear authentic ‒ for example:
mail.amazon.work as opposed to amazon.ca
5. Pay attention when looking at links and URLs
Hovering over links in webpages and emails, as well as taking that extra time to look at the browser address bar and see what website you’re really at can save you from falling for a phishing attack.
6. Look out for fake purchase invoices, shipping status messages and email deals
Attackers take advantage of this by sending fake purchase receipts or shipping status messages, sometimes purportedly from reputable companies like Apple, Walmart and Amazon etc. Victims could find themselves installing malware or landing on a phishing page by clicking these links or by downloading attachments.
7. Update your personal computer’s protection software
You should install operating system, application patches and anti-virus applications on your personal devices as soon as they are available. Cyber security threats are constantly developing and installing the latest software updates can protect you from any new attacks.
8. Don’t use public Wi-Fi to shop online
Public networks are not secured and likely will not encrypt your data. A hacker connected to the same network could capture your identity – whether you’re connected through your computer or phone. Although you may want to shop quickly to take advantage of a deal, you should wait until you are home or connected with a protected Internet connection.
9. Only shop on secure sites
Before providing any online vendor with your information, check if the page URL has “https” at the beginning of the site address. All legitimate shopping sites will have this for your protection. If you don’t see the full five letters, that means the site and any data you share will not be encrypted or secure.
10. Steer clear of phony shopping and discount apps
Only download shopping apps from reliable sources, such as the Apple Store or Google Play. Check the name of the developer, read the online reviews and pay attention to what permissions the app asks for. If something seems off and the app is asking for access to your all contacts, it may be a phony.
11. Keep an eye on your bank accounts.
Make sure the purchases shown there were actually made by you. If you notice any suspicious or unidentified transactions report it to your financial institution.
12. Most importantly, trust your gut
You probably wouldn’t shop at a store you don’t recognize or simply doesn’t seem legitimate. That same gut feeling should apply when shopping online. If anything seems strange or you feel you are giving out too much information, cancel the transaction or immediately leave the site. Your personal and financial information is not worth the risk.