By Kevin J. Goodman
Take some time to educate and empower yourself to review online best practices. This effort now could radically reduce your risks personally online while helping you and your business to protect both its privacy and credit.
Here are some links to websites that will help keep your credit safe online:
Stay Safe Online — The internet is a shared resource, and securing it is our shared responsibility. The mission of The National CyberSecurity Alliance with its “StaySafeOnline” website tool is to educate and empower a digital society to use the internet safely and securely.
Privacy Grade — Think of the adage, “Nothing is truly free,” including mobile apps. Be mindful of the personal information you give mobile app providers. Many free apps sell your information to a wide range of companies, some of which may have malicious intents. Studies have shown most apps do not have many, or even any, security controls built in. Check out Privacy Grade to see if the app you want respects your privacy and has security built in.
Charity Navigator — And, finally, check out this guide to intelligent giving at holiday time and all year round.
A list of general points and tips to learn and keep in mind to mitigate risk online:
- Be aware of what you click on! “Usually during the holidays malicious hackers utilize the holiday season itself for online scams, phishing, and malware distribution,” according to BlueBridge Networks security expert consultant Nathan LaFollette. “A lot of times there is an increase in email spam whereas a malicious hacker tries to send as many email messages they can to increase the potential percentage of victims clicking on them or ‘falling for their hoax.’ This is the biggest concern we’ve seen during the holidays. They’ll take advantage of Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals and redirect users to a malicious site instead of the original vendor. So the tip here is ‘think before you click.’ People are so prone to just clicking right away without thinking what they’ve done that they open themselves to a vulnerable state. If an email looks too good to be true, it most likely is.”
- Update your own sites. If you are a business, you will want to ensure that your ecommerce and PII sites are fully patched as a good practice before the holidays. Attackers will also take advantage of patches not applied because maybe a system admin is on holiday, which can leave the company open to a vulnerable state. So being diligent in patching and penetration testing on a regular basis will ensure that the malicious hackers will stay away from your server or app and focus on one somewhere else where it’s easier to utilize the vulnerable state.
- Read the fine print. This can be seemingly boring and mundane; however, this practice could help you avoid the hassle of having to cancel unwanted monthly membership charges and the like. Read privacy policies and understand them.
- Look for the “S” in the web address. In order to help assure a website is secure, a website address should have “https” not just “http.” Watch that all of your personal information is encrypted. Insist on sites that are two-factor or multi-factor authentication. They should not only want your username and password but also an additional security code(s).
- Practice good password hygiene. You will want to be sure to change passwords often. Make sure your characters number at least eight digits or more. Utilize a random mix or upper and lower case alphabet, symbols and numbers. Be sure to keep any passwords written down separate from the computers utilized and under lock.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi for transactions and other tips. Simply put: your connection could be intercepted. You will want to utilize a known secure connection like a VPN. Avoid use of debit card, as it may not limit your risk of loss as well as a credit card. Be aware of your levels of cyber protection and look for this value when procuring a credit card just as you may compare interest rates and other terms.
Here is a past column I wrote for CBC that may be helpful to revisit this time of year before we participate in what experts are predicting to be a record holiday season spending online with of more than $83 billion of transactions.
Kevin Goodman is the managing director, partner with BlueBridge Networks, a downtown Cleveland-headquartered data-center and cloud computing business. He can be reached at (216) 621-2583 and firstname.lastname@example.org.