Cyber shopping on Black Friday can be very appealing – no lining up at midnight, no line ups at all, no risk of being trampled by unruly crowds, shop in your PJs if you like, “shopping around” and comparing prices is a snap, and the list of benefits goes on.
So, if you cyber shop, you may not face the risk of being trampled to death by an unruly crowd, or being shot to death by an angry shopper – both tragedies actually did happen on Black Friday, November 28, 2008. But, you will face substantial cyber security risks.
Staying safe while you cyber shop requires that you be much more wary, and that you understand that cyber crooks salivate at the opportunities Black Friday cyber shopping creates for exploiting the unwary and careless consumer.
Cyber shopping safely requires that you follow well established best practices that have proven to substantially reduce the risk of being victimized.
PandaLabs suggests holiday shoppers adhere to the following best practices this Friday and Monday, and throughout the holiday shopping season:
Avoid using search engines for locating special holiday deals. Criminals commonly turn to Blackhat SEO, which involves maliciously using search engine optimization around hot keywords to poison search engine results. Instead of using a search engine, go directly to reputable sites that you are familiar with. Screenshots of a recent malicious Black Friday search result is available at here.
Don’t click on embedded links in advertisement e-mails. E-mails that appear to be advertisements from legitimate vendors could be a well-disguised scam or malware attack. Chances are you’ll be able to find the same deal by going directly to the website in your favorite web browser.
Install all available operating system updates and patches. Cyber criminals are particularly skilled at exploiting critical vulnerabilities in operating systems and commonly used applications. Computer users are often silently redirected to a website with a carefully crafted malicious payload that leaves the computer infected with data-stealing malware or extortion-based threats. In addition to updating your system, PandaLabs strongly advises people to update Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, and Java software, which are all commonly targeted by cyber criminals.
Don’t underestimate criminals. Cyber criminals have no limits, and will create fake advertisements, shopping carts, poison various search terms and more in order infect your computer and steal your personal data. If you’re unsure if a site is legitimate, run a search online to see if you can determine whether it’s widely known. If you can’t find details on a retailer, PandaLabs advises holiday shoppers to take their business elsewhere.
Only purchase from sites that offer secure browsing (SSL/https). You can tell if a site uses SSL/https if there is a padlock icon on the bottom corner or in the address bar of your browser. Some browsers like Internet Explorer and Chrome turn the address bar green to indicate that the site is secure. Even if a site uses SSL/https, remember that SSL only works to create a secure Internet tunnel between you and the e-commerce server. You can still transmit sensitive data over to cyber criminals, so it’s best to run frequent anti-malware scans.
Always use updated anti-malware protection. Despite growing awareness of today’s Web-borne threats, many people still don’t use even a basic anti-virus solution and leave themselves vulnerable to infections, data loss and identity theft. You can download Panda Security’s award-winning Panda Cloud Antivirus software, which is completely free, here.
Since 1990, PandaLabs, the malware research division of Panda Security, has led the industry in detecting, classifying and protecting consumers and businesses against new cyber threats.
At the core of the operation is Collective Intelligence, a proprietary system that provides real-time protection by harnessing Panda’s community of users to automatically detect, analyze, classify and disinfect more than 63,000 new malware samples daily.
The automated classification is complemented by a highly specialized global team of threat analysts, each focused on a specific type of malware, such as viruses, Trojans, worms, spyware and other exploits, to ensure around-the-clock protection.
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