Online shopping has added convenience in many ways. We no longer have to physically search through store after store, or even worry about parking during the busy holiday rush at the mall. And can you say, “two-day shipping?” Though with this convenience comes the risk of deceit in the form of a phishing email, a cloned URL, a corrupt link or anything else the scammers come up with – and they are creative. Great Plains Communications wants to provide a few common scams to keep watch for, and tips on protecting yourself from cyber criminals this season.
Fake Website or Cloned URL
There are different ways to spot a fake site. The main thing you should look closely at is the URL. Many people are in a rush to get their holiday shopping done and pay little attention to the address bar at the top of the screen. Scammers will try to “clone” or create sites indecipherably different from the one you are looking for. For example, amazon1.com rather than amazon.com, but when you googled it, the link title said “Amazon.com: Online Shopping for Electronics, Apparel…” Scammers can put whatever title they want but the difference is in the small URL underneath.
Phishing Emails – Getting More Creative All the Time
One of the new scams that has been reported this holiday season is one that mimics an update shipping email from Amazon. It will say that there has been an issue in the shipping process and they need your information again – including shipping address and credit card information. Do not give your information to any company through a link in an email. If you are worried about your purchased item, such as in this example, open a new tab and type in the website’s URL and check through your account.
While online browsing is fine, avoid doing any online purchasing while on public Wi-Fi. Even if they have a password, hotel room numbers or the restaurant name + “public” written on the chalkboard by the door are not keeping your online activity safe. Anyone on the same public network with a computer and the right know-how could potentially view what you’re doing online and take any data that you’re sending over the network.
It is easy to get wrapped up in the convenience of online shopping and the stress of the holidays. But by simply staying alert to the dangers of scams, just as you would in the physical world, the risk of falling victim to one decreases substantially. Double-check URLs of the sites you visit, be overly cautious of emails from companies and unknown senders, don’t share or enter any personal information while on public Wi-Fi and a last tip would be to keep all software and devices updated.
While you check the lock on the front door each night before bed, make sure your car alarm is set as you walk away and keep your wallet in a safe place – are you taking the same thought and energy into cyber security? Your passwords are the lock and key to information such as your social security number, bank account information, personal family photos and much more. By allowing yourself to lean on lazy passwords such as your favorite sports team or your dog’s name, not to mention using that password for multiple accounts, you are opening yourself up to a major security breach. Great Plains Communications has three tips to keep in mind to secure your personal information through better password practices.
- Use a password manager.
We have a lot of passwords. It can be daunting to think of remembering at least 8 characters for 8 different accounts. Whatever you do, DON’T USE THE SAME PASSWORD. We are all guilty of committing a few password sins, but this has to be the worst of all. Your Facebook gets hacked and what do you think that person is going to do next? BINGO: check your bank account, credit card, etc. with that handy password they just gained access to. By using a password manager programs such as 1Password or LastPass, you can create strong and unique passwords for all of your accounts and lose the risk of forgetting them.
- Use a passphrase.
We have entered the era of passphrases vs. passwords. Instead of throwing some numbers and symbols on the end of the month your first child was born, turn to random phrases to stay secure. By using a phrase, you add length and randomization. But don’t just string together a sentence about your life or a pop culture reference. Be creative! For example: “Plug Tricky Stapler.”
- Add two-factor verification.
Unfortunately, sometimes a password or passphrase just isn’t enough. You may notice accounts on social networks, banks, and even Google offering an added layer of protection called two-factor verification. What this means is you will need to put in your password but also a one-time code that is sent to your phone or email, or through an app like Google Authenticator. What this can also do is notify you if someone else is attempting to enter a password into one of your accounts.
It is 2018 and people are setting goals. While according to Statista.com, ‘Save Money’ and ‘Lose Weight’ are still the top two resolutions for 2018, people are also starting to consider that like a healthy eating balance there also needs to be a healthy tech balance. More people are setting goals such as, “Monitor Phone Use” or “Improve Cyber Security”. Great Plains Communications wants to help you succeed with some tips.
Monitor Phone Use
How often do you find yourself turning on the television to watch a show and end up missing over half of it because you were scrolling through your newsfeed or playing a game on your phone? If you are looking to cut back on the time you stare at that small screen, a first step could be to figure out how long you are currently on it. Apps such as Moment (iOS) or Quality Time™ (Android) help to not only track how long you are in specific apps but will also give you alerts when you have been on for a specific amount of time. You can customize the alerts to your goals and schedule.
Improve Cyber Security
There are many ways to improve your cyber security, but we have listed two main areas as a starting point: Password Management and Apps Management.
Manage your Passwords
Passwords are the lock and key to some of our most personal and sensitive information. Not only are we protecting financial information, but contacts and photos as well. If you are looking to better manage your passwords, work on changing them more frequently and always using unique passwords for different sites. We realize there are now passwords for everything and it becomes increasingly harder to remember all of them, especially if you change them often. Programs such as LastPass and KeePass work to remember your passwords, while also keeping them secure.
Manage your Apps
Do you have an app graveyard on your phone? Maybe you hit Candy Crush hard for a good two months then burnt out quick and haven’t played since. Or maybe you still have an app for that grocery store down the road from the apartment you lived in…three years ago. The kicker question is, have you still been keeping them updated or is that red bubble always above your App Store? You don’t use them, so why keep them updated? Well, all these things can actually leave you exposed to hackers gaining access to your information. But there is a simple solution; delete all those apps you aren’t using. Then taking it one step further and check your apps permissions for the ones you keep. For Apple users, go to Settings > Privacy and check what apps have access to things like your contacts, photos, and microphone.
People often associate chaos and risk with Black Friday and not so much Cyber Monday. Rather than mobs running through aisles, they picture themselves safe on their couch with a blanket and cup of coffee. What people don’t understand is that all Cyber Monday has done is take the craziness of Black Friday and opened it up to the World Wide Web. Great Plains Communications wants to provide tips to protect yourself when shopping online.
The three tips we will cover are:
- How to spot fake shopping websites
- Keep your software updated
- A credit card is safer to use than a debit card
With targeted ads and pop-ups, it can seem as if the best deals are right in front of our faces. But even a secure looking ad or link could take you to a fake shopping website. From there, your computer could either be infected the moment you arrive or by malicious links within. However, where you want to be the most careful is during the checkout process. Below we have listed some giveaways that will help spot a fake website.
- Is it a strange URL like the one in the graphic above?
- Are they selling an odd selection of products? For example, you went to the website for the dress you saw in the ad but see they also sell computer parts.
- Does the copy have an abundance of grammar and spelling errors? Most companies will have a copywriter whose job is to expertly write intros and product descriptions.
- Is the customer service contact email a little off? For example, it would not be email@example.com but firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t get tricked by familiar terms.
- Are the prices too good to be true? Is the website trying to sell an iPhone X for $100? It is probably a scam.
Having out-of-date versions or unpatched software is like having a target for malware, leaving you vulnerable to exploit kits. At the least, make sure to have your browser updated when shopping online. This will ensure your cookies and cache are more secure against data leaks.
We are all guilty of rolling our eyes at the little update bubble. It’s time consuming and most of the time the changes are behind the scenes so we write them off as insignificant. But it is the information behind the scenes that is keeping your data protected.
Credit Card vs. Debit Card
The main advantage to using a credit card versus a debit card is that a credit card has better consumer protection. In the case that someone did obtain your information, you wouldn’t be liable for fraudulent transactions. With a debit card, depending on when you report the missing card or fraudulent transactions, you could be on the hook for the entire amount. No matter what kind of card you use, it is always smart to monitor your accounts after online shopping.
We live in a technology driven world, with friends, businesses and online information all at our fingertips. Our lives have become a constant stream of emails and newsfeeds connected between multiple devices. Great Plains Communications wants to make sure you understand just where those connections are going and that they are all protected, with our Tech Home service.
The program provides world-class security for all your devices, home and on the go, with web security and antivirus systems. Gone away is the worry of lost files when your device crashes or gets damaged. With Tech Home you will be able to sync and back up all your files, photos, contacts and additional important information. No matter where you are, or which Wi-Fi you connect to, Tech Home will have you covered with a cloud-based protection keeping your personal information secure and convenient. With round-the-clock technicians, you will always be provided with help to setup, test, fix and enjoy your network.
Tech Home is the support you are looking for and the protection you need. For more information on the new product, call 1-855-853-1483 or visit our website at https://www.gpcom.com/residential/internet/techhome.
Data Privacy Day is more than an annual reminder to change your passwords. If somebody told you that you have malware on your computer, would you know what that means? By definition, ‘malware [mal-wair]: software intended to damage a computer, mobile device, computer system, or computer network, or to take partial control over its operation’. Though spyware (form of malware) can be applied in several technologies, there are two important things staysafeonline.org notes to be aware of…
- They (spyware) can download themselves onto your computer without your permission. This can happen when you visit an unsecure website or through an attachment in an unprotected email.
- Spyware can make your computer do things you don’t want it to do. That might be as simple as opening an advertisement you didn’t want to see. In the worst case, spyware can track your online movements, steal your passwords and compromise your accounts.
Below are some steps to ensure you are staying protected, provided by staysafeonline.org:
- Keep a Clean Machine: Make sure to have the latest security software, web browser and operating system to have the best defenses against viruses, malware and any other online threats.
- When in doubt, throw it out: Cybercriminals often use links in emails, tweets, posts and online advertising as their main source in attempting to compromise your computer. Don’t hesitate to delete something if it looks suspicious, even if you recognize the source.
- Protect all devices that connect to the Internet: Computers are no longer the only way we connect to the Internet, make sure smart phones, gaming systems and other web-enabled devices also have protection from viruses and malware.
- Plug & scan: Don’t forget to scan “USB” drives with your security software to be sure they have not been infected by viruses and malware.
Great Plains Communications wants to make sure your computer and information are safe. Keep all of these tips in mind as Data Privacy Day approaches next week and for more information go to staysafeonline.org.