6 Tech Tips for a More Secure Holiday Season

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, online shopping has seen a dramatic increase. We’ve stopped visiting shopping centres and instead heavily relied on our devices to provide endless choice during the holiday season. From designated discount days like Cyber Monday, to quick buy features, online shopping has undoubtedly created greater convenience. However, as a consumer you may have been told different ways to use your technology to shop online safely.

From career and communication to shopping and entertainment, our digital worlds have grown exponentially. As we all log on to have business meetings, make calls with loved ones, and purchase gifts, cybercrime will be an ongoing threat. So, regardless of whether you’re using your technology for business or pleasure this holiday season, it is crucial you are being safe. Read on and discover our six tech tips to help you enjoy a more secure holiday season.

Watch for scams

Cybercrime is rife during this period, with scammers and hackers leveraging new ways to mislead unsuspecting and unprepared victims. Knowledge is and will always be your best defence. Your ability to identify fraudulent messages, such as phishing emails can go a long way. Here are some examples:

Flash sale alerts

You’ll likely be informed about many promotions in the next few weeks as retailers host more sales. Not all offers are legitimate as scammers will create these fake offers with hidden malicious code. They may sit in your inbox alongside real newsletters and imitate these reputable companies. You may be able to distinguish the real alerts from the scams, but it’s best to avoid following any links. Instead, visit the store’s official website to verify the deal advertised. The same is true for gift cards and other freebies.

Fake delivery notices

This is another common way for cybercriminals to target online shoppers. If you receive any notifications regarding missed deliveries, remember to double-check any orders you have made. Scam messages may also show a false tracking number with a malicious link to claim ‘lost items’. In this case always refer back to your original receipt and delivery company’s tracking. For instance, you may be expecting a Royal Mail Parcelforce delivery, so the mention of UPS would be a red flag.

Unrealistic offers

Chances are that you’ve seen a few online ads or emails for desirable items with temptingly low prices. These aren’t always easy to catch out. The discount may only bring the cost down to 20% lower than elsewhere. But if there isn’t another retailer offering the same product for nearly as cheap, you should probably steer clear. In any case if you come across an unofficial outlet retailer offering suspiciously lower prices, it may be best to stick to your usual reputable brand.

While knowing what to look for is key, it certainly helps to have the right tools at your disposal. This can include:

  • AdBlock Plus to prevent harmful pop-ups and content from appearing
  • Fakespot for detecting fake sellers and product reviews
  • CamelCamelCamel for viewing an item’s price over time

Donate cautiously

The holiday season is also the time for giving. And with all the challenges the world is currently facing, there are plenty of people who deserve some assistance. Unfortunately, charities aren’t immune to the risks of cybercrime. Scammers will tend to loom over areas where there are financial transactions and little security defence. Therefore, it’s not unusual for scammers to prey on the kindness of others and exploit the common charity donor.

That’s why it’s important to do your research. Make use of resources such as the charity register to learn about an organisation’s credibility and practices before contributing. Similarly, remain vigilant of aggressive pitches and requests for money. When it comes to payments, try using a credit card so that you can recover any fraudulent transactions.

Secure new devices

This season is a great time to pick up a few tech devices. This may be to boost your workstation or simply to spoil some family members. In any case, the first priority should be to protect your investment by securing it right away. It’s also a good idea to assess your current devices. This process of course depends on your needs and circumstances.

Basic security measures include downloading antivirus, running scans, and updating software. For business owners and remote workers, a remote IT support service can provide all the necessary security solutions. These services can range from malware and threat mitigation to network audits, data backups, and more. Managed IT services significantly reduce stress about your security procedures with dedicated monitoring and defence facilities.

Make informed purchases

Today’s smart devices reach well-beyond the likes of voice assistant-enabled speakers. You can buy fridges, thermostats, baby monitors, light fixtures, garage door openers, and countless other kinds of connected tech.

The Internet of Things (IoT) gadgets form your home network and can be compromised by devices that are vulnerable to hackers. Be selective when shopping for tech from new brands. You should avoid knockoffs or products from unsavoury brands without a proven history of security and reliability. Keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Choose reputable manufacturers
  • Check their privacy policy and track record
  • Look for security features and guaranteed updates
  • Read what existing users say about the product
  • Find reviews from authoritative sources in the industry

Conference carefully

It’s clear that during the pandemic, we became more reliant on video conferencing tools to bring us together. However now, long after social distancing rules have been scrapped, we are accustomed using online video calls to stay in touch with friends, family, and fellow employees. Given that software like Zoom requires access to your camera and microphone, it’s best to stick with well-known services. Also, always be wary of apps and websites which request these permissions.

Popular video conferencing tools include:

  • Skype for personal calls
  • Hangouts for casual chats
  • GoToMeeting for presentations
  • Microsoft Teams for collaboration
  • Cisco Webex Meetings for business

Practise good habits

As mentioned earlier, knowledge is your best defence against fraudsters, hackers, and scammers. An informed approach should be coupled with good habits to keep yourself, your business, and your loved ones safe. Try to maintain the following practices:

  1. Ensure that passwords are long and unique with 15-20 different characters
  2. Monitor your financial accounts for fraudulent activity
  3. Install antivirus software and perform regular scans
  4. Check web browser privacy and security settings
  5. Keep apps and operating systems up to date

When it comes to safeguarding your personal data and files, routine backups are key. An external hard drive can get the job done, but cloud storage tends to be more convenient and effective. Dropbox, OneDrive, iCloud, and Google Drive are all great options from trustworthy companies.

Finally, consider using a VPN (virtual private network) to safely and privately browse the internet. These tools have the added benefit of allowing you to access restricted content such as region-locked media and special offers. Leading VPN services include ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Surf Shark, and IPVanish.

Here’s to a safe and secure digital holiday!

With the right tech tools and some trusty know-how, you can enjoy a headache-free festive season. If you’re interested in learning more about totality services and our award-winning security services, work from home IT support, or any other IT solutions, please get in touch to discuss how we can help your business.