In preparation for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, consumers are advised to adopt safe measures before shopping online in order to reduce their vulnerability to cyber-attacks.
“Shopping online is a convenient way to avoid the holiday crowds, but it’s important that consumers protect their wallets on the internet just as much as they would while shopping in a brick and mortar store,” says Moses Garuba, Ph.D., cybersecurity expert and associate dean of the Howard University College of Engineering and Architecture.
Garuba highlights nine tips to protect online shoppers’ personal information.
Limit disclosure of personally identifiable information (PII). Enter only the basic information required during account creation. Required fields are usually accompanied by red asterisks.
Increase the default security settings of your internet browser. Privacy is either basic or turned off for many websites. Review your web browser privacy and security settings to ensure that your settings are adequate. If available, use multifactor authentication. Always ensure that alerts and notifications are turned on.
Choose strong passwords that are unique to each account. Ensure your passwords are not used across various accounts. Change your passwords about once every three months.
Check for https in website URLs. The information being passed through this type of website is encrypted and not easily read by hackers, making it harder for your information to be stolen.
Limit your activity over public Wi-Fi. Do not use public Wi-Fi without a virtual private network (VPN).
Pause and think before you click. Verify the legitimacy of a hyperlink before you click on it. If you are unsure of the sender, don’t click!
If a website looks suspicious to you, then it is suspicious! Don’t make exceptions when it comes to the security of your identity and money!
Use credit cards or other secure third-party payment services such as PayPal. Debit cards are risky because they provide a direct link to your money.
Always use common sense. If something feels uncomfortable, don’t do it!
Garuba says these tips can be used regularly to ensure an adequate safe zone against cyber threats. He is co-investigator of a three-year, $1,000,000 project to advance cybersecurity. Garuba and Danda B. Rawat, Ph.D., director of the Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity program, are collaborating to design, develop and evaluate cyber-defense solutions. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation. For more information, visit http://www.cea.howard.edu.