Retailers and customers are planning for one of the year’s busiest purchasing days, but they’re not the only ones. This spike of online spending draws the inquisitiveness of cybercriminals who are willing to unleash their online scams using this mass market.
Black Friday is a popular shopping tradition that started in the United States but has increased in popularity in the United Kingdom and across the globe since then. This year, it falls on November 27th 2020 and marks the beginning of a shopping spending spree as distributors sell off their stock at discounted prices. It has become an even bigger event to go online in the search for deals with shoppers trying to escape the frenzied crowds due to COVID-19.
The amount of money spent on this cyber weekend is rising year on year, and shoppers spent a whopping £9.4 billion last year in the UK, an increase from the £7 billion spent the previous year.
The money is tracked by cybercriminals and this weekend of wild spending gives them the perfect hacking opportunity. Almost a quarter of 18-34-year-olds have fallen for a Black Friday scam in the past five years, with shoppers losing an average of £661 after falling victim of such frauds. With threats becoming more sophisticated, when searching for the best online offers, shoppers need to be extra careful to ensure they don’t fall victim to a Black Friday scam this year. We have listed a number of key things to consider this year:
1. Try to use a credit card when shopping online
Using a credit card when doing your online shopping offers additional protection and if there is a fraudulent transaction on your account, there is more of a chance that the bank will reimburse your money if the transaction is on a credit card. However, if a hacker steals your debit card details, personal information and accounts can be cleared out and it can be more difficult to try and claim the money back.
2. Be vigilant of phishing scams in emails
Phishing is one of the most common methods for criminals to steal your personal information, and on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there is always a massive increase in these types of scams. The speed, ease of access and high return on investment ends up making phishing one of the quickest places for cyber criminals without you even knowing to steal your personal data.
Be wary of any emails offering cash prizes or last-minute deals as the cyber holidays approach. These emails are designed to trick shoppers into clicking on a link that a well-known retailer may seem to come from. If you think that something is not right about the email and delete it immediately, trust your gut.
3. Resist offers that are too good to be true
There are lots of legitimate offers given by reliable and trustworthy retailers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Cybercriminals, however, realise that we’re going to search the web for the best deals and they take advantage of this by slipping into thousands of bogus offers.
Be wary of offering rock bottom pricing for any texts, pop-ups or posts on social media. You can get straight to a phishing site by clicking on the link and you can end up downloading malware to your computer. It can be difficult to differentiate between a real deal and a fake, so it’s better to do your research to find out whether the website is legitimate or go directly to the website of a brand to decide if the offer is genuine.
4. Always use strong and different passwords for all websites
One of the best ways to safeguard yourself from being compromised online is to create a strong password. With so many passwords to remember, it can be tempting to use the same password for different accounts, however this puts you at great risk of getting your data compromised. Whether it’s a Facebook account or online banking information, if hackers can find out only one of your passwords, they can theoretically access any single account you have.
It is always safer to use a specific username and password for different online accounts so that criminals may not have access to your other online accounts in the unfortunate event of phishing. Also the password should be solid and hard to crack. Consider using a password manager such as OneLogin.
5. Stay away from public Wi-Fi when online shopping
Using public Wi-Fi to look for the best offers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday could open up a number of security risks for you. One of the greatest free WiFi challenges is the ability of hackers to place themselves between you and the point of communication. So instead of putting your details into the hotspot directly, you end up sending the hacker your details. Each piece of information you send out is also available to the hacker: emails, mobile number, credit card information, business data, the list goes on. And once that knowledge was open to a hacker, you essentially gave them everything they needed to know about you to attack.
It is also possible to use unsecured Wi-Fi networks to spread malware that gives criminals free access to everything on your computer. In exchange, this information may be used to commit identity theft, or the information may be marketed to third-party criminal organisations.
6. Keep all your software updated
You should make sure that all the security software is up-to-date before going online to shop around for the best offers. In older and obsolete systems, this will prevent cybercriminals from accessing your device via vulnerabilities. Anti-virus software installation can also help identify threats on your computer and prevent unauthorised users from gaining access.
Hackers look out for bugs in security, also known as vulnerabilities in software. A security hole or weakness found in a software programme or operating system is a software vulnerability. To target the vulnerability, hackers will take advantage of the weakness by writing code. The code, short for malicious software, is bundled into malware.
An exploit may often corrupt your computer other than viewing a rogue website, opening a compromised message, or playing infected media, with no action on your part. So, what happens next? The malware can steal data stored on your system or allow your computer to be controlled by the attacker and your files to be encrypted. Software upgrades also include software patches. To keep hackers out, they plug the security holes.
7. Regularly check your banking statement for fraudulent transactions
To make sure there are no suspicious transactions on your accounts, it’s always worth keeping a close eye on bank statements. Criminals know that there will be plenty of online activity during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so they hope any suspicious debits from your bank account will go undetected. Usually, with smaller sums, the hackers would make a few initial debits, then go in for a bigger sum that might wash out your bank account.
8. Never use an unsecure site or fake websites
For their Black Friday and Cyber Monday scams using fake sites is one of the most common ways criminals can try to trick shoppers into falling for the scam. Websites would be cloned by scammers to trick customers into believing they are shopping on a reputable website. The website may appear almost similar to the actual site; however, slight modifications may mean that not all is as it appears.
A domain address ending in.co.uk may be updated to .org, images may be blurred, site features may not operate correctly, and content is frequently sub-standard. To confirm its authenticity, it’s always worth double-checking a site’s address.
In terms of the site being secure you should always verify that the site is safe and stable before entering any data into a website. The first move is to hover your mouse over the URL and verify the web address’s validity. In the address bar, you can look for a padlock symbol and verify that the URL begins with either ‘https:/ ‘or’ shttp:/’. The ‘S ‘means that an SSL certificate has been encrypted and secured with the web address. Any data transmitted on the web without HTTPS is unreliable and may be intercepted by third-party criminal parties. This method is not completely foolproof, though. There has been a significant rise in the number of phishing sites using SSL certificates over the past year. Users are recommended to be extra careful and look for additional proof that the web is secure.
10. Be prepared to come across social media scams
On Black Friday and Cyber Monday, social media scams are rife. The hackers realise that people go online to search for offers specifically, so they make it as simple as they can for shoppers to fall for their online scams. For these malicious messages, Facebook and Twitter tend to be the chosen option, and offenders will ask shoppers to like and retweet their messages, so they’re boosted to the top of news feeds and reach a broader audience.
Cybercriminals have turned their attention to social media in recent years as it offers the perfect place to dupe individuals into clicking on dodgy links. On social media, users appear to be more confident and it is harder to decide whether a link is malicious than it would be on a more conventional site.
Online sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a fast and convenient way to get your hands-on products that are unaffordable the rest of the year. But the excitement and desperation of securing the best deals produces vulnerabilities that are ready and able to be abused by anonymous hackers. As you brace your inbox for the annual cyber holiday bombing offers, before the chaos starts, maybe take a few moments to reinforce your protection.
These 10 safety tips for Black Friday and Cyber Monday can help you make this holiday sale season a successful haul. Although all of these tips may sound like common sense, when you are in a hurry, it is easy to get caught up in the moment. It will help keep your shopping trip smooth and efficient by following these steps. Remember to research before you purchase.
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About Salt Communications
Salt Communications is a multi-award winning cyber security company providing a fully enterprise-managed software solution giving absolute privacy in mobile communications. It is easy to deploy and uses multi-layered encryption techniques to meet the highest of security standards. Salt Communications offers ‘Peace of Mind’ for Organisations who value their privacy, by giving them complete control and secure communications, to protect their trusted relationships and stay safe. Salt Communications is headquartered in Belfast, N. Ireland, for more information visit our website.