Why cybercriminals are working extra hard this holiday season and how you can protect yourself

As consumers spend more time at home, making their holiday purchases online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, cybersecurity professionals warn that criminals are hard at work taking advantage of  vulnerable shoppers.

“Cybercriminals are also locked up at home and, unfortunately, it gives them more free time at the keyboard to come up with creative ways to compromise us,” said Chester Wisniewski, cybersecurity specialist at Sophos.

Click to play video 'B.C. small businesses urging consumers to shop local this Christmas' B.C. small businesses urging consumers to shop local this Christmas

B.C. small businesses urging consumers to shop local this Christmas

From false ads to bogus promotions and contests, criminals love to target e-commerce sites during the holidays.

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“They have hit some well-known retailers, and my advice to people is that most websites these days allow you to check out with an alternative form of payment rather than entering your credit card details directly,” Wisniewski said.

He suggested using mobile payment systems like Apple Pay or Google Pay to avoid sharing sensitive financial information with retailers.

“Reducing the number of merchants that have your card details reduces the risk of it being stolen.”

Read more: Lockdowns ahead of Black Friday a blow to small retailers

Cybercriminals also like to impersonate large, trusted brands and get potential victims to give up personal information, he said.

Wisniewski cautioned against clicking on ads or promotions on social media that appear too good to be true.

“None of these legitimate places should be asking you for much more detail other than a shipping address, for example,” he said.

“So you should be very careful with never supplying a birth date, a driver’s licence, or any kind of personally identifiable information that just doesn’t feel right for what’s being asked.”

Read more: Black Friday 2020: Shop early to avoid delays or wait for the best deals?

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Holiday online shopping safety tips:

  • Use strong passwords and change them regularly. Make them complex. Use a password manager.
  • Avoid clicking on ads or promotional material.
  • Beware of fake emails from retailers and shipping companies. Always go directly to the business’ website.
  • Shop with trusted online retailers.
  • Don’t save your credit card information on your accounts for future use.
  • Consider using mobile payment systems like Apple Pay or Google Pay.

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