Surf Safe This Christmas

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Tips to protect you from online attacks

It’s that time of year when shopping centres are bedecked with Christmas decorations and Little Drummer Boy gets put on what seems like an infinite loop. Most people are getting ready to relax and recharge their batteries for the year to come. And in the digital age of today, they are often doing so with their favourite tablet or mobile device in hand.

With so much time spent at home or at <insert favourite holiday spot>, online activity tends to increase considerably as more evenings are spent surfing the internet, indulging in some online retail therapy, playing games, or keeping up with friends via social media. Consulting firm Deloitte recently estimated that online sales now account for the equivalent of more than 5.5 million square meters of retail space. It seems that this year more people than ever will indulge in some online shopping from the comfort of their own home or while on the move with their mobile device.

Description: Tips to protect you from online attacks

Tips to protect you from online attacks

However, during these warm and relaxing summer evenings, it is important to remain vigilant. Just because you’re on holiday and getting into the festive spirit doesn’t mean that those opportunistic cybercriminals will also be taking it easy.

During the holiday season especially, more financial transactions will take place than at any other time of the year. Cybercriminals have been known to set up fraudulent Web sites that seem to offer great deals, when in fact they are merely traps hoping to entice unwitting people to enter their credit card details.

While it is great that South Africans are benefitting from the convenience and choice that an online shopping experience brings, it is also important that they protect themselves from the growing array of online threats out there as they use their cards and personal details online.

Here are some tips to protect you online and making sure that it is not the scammers and cybercriminals who are having happy holidays.

1.    Be wary of unsecured or unknown Web sites. When shopping online, always use reputable dealers and make sure that any transactions you make only take place across secure pages. These are usually denoted by a padlock sign in your browser address bar.

Description: Be wary of unsecured or unknown Web sites

Be wary of unsecured or unknown Web sites

2.    Watch out for spam emails. “This year’s top toy 80% cheaper” or “Win all your holiday gifts and get them delivered direct to your door!” Seem too good to be true? Well, it most probably is. Cybercriminals are fully aware of the searches we make online during certain times of the year and they know the kind of emails we wish would land in our inbox. Always be cautious of any emails you receive from unknown recipients or that seem just that bit too generous.

3.    Be careful on social networking sites. Gangs have been known to monitor people’s social profiles to find out when they’re going away (for example staying with relatives over the holiday period and their home will be left empty). Be mindful of this when telling the world that you’ll be spending the two weeks over the festive season away from your own home.

Description: Be careful on social networking sites

Be careful on social networking sites

4.    Keep personal information secured. Make sure that whatever you happen to be doing online that you do not to give out any personal information. Always be cautious when befriending someone online, particularly via social networking sites where personal information may be easily exposed. People aren’t always who they say they are.

5.    Keep your mobile phone protected. Thieves are always on the lookout for opportunities. When out in large crowds doing your holiday shopping, always ensure that you know the whereabouts of your mobile phone and other personal belongings. Make sure that your phone is pin-protected and that you have downloaded a security app which allows you to wipe any personal data, should it be stolen.

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