5 Tips for Blocking Hacker Attacks This Cyber Monday

Posted on: November 21, 2017 | By: Christina Bonds | Filed under: Info Security, Online Safety Tips

Christmas tree and giftsThe holiday season has arrived! While this is a perfect time to get great online deals, this is also the time when scammers and hackers take advantage of the increase in online transactions to steal personal information. Scammers often use social media, email, and text messages to trick you into giving away your personal information by getting you to click on links disguised as sales. Usually the links appear to come from a legitimate source, however clicking on them takes you to a malicious, but real-looking, page asking for your personal information. Today, we’ll share a few ways you can spot shopping scams and keep your personal information safe.

Ask yourself these quick questions before buying online this holiday season:

Question 1: Are my apps and web browsers up-to-date?

Apps and web browsers are updated regularly to add new features and address any security vulnerabilities. Before making a purchase make sure everything has the latest updates so you can benefit from any new security improvements.  (How to update apps: Android and Apple.)

Question 2: Do I trust this website with my personal information?

Does the site have a small padlock symbol in the address bar area of the web browser? Does the website address begin with https://? Both of these indicators let you know the site is secure. It is especially important to see these when you are entering passwords, credit card numbers, or other sensitive data, as it ensures that your data is encrypted when sent across the internet.

Question 3: Is my internet connection secure?

Know what network your device is connected to before you click “checkout” to purchase items. Did you have to enter a password to gain access to the network the first time you tried to connect? If so, that’s typically more secure than an open, public wifi connection. Public wireless hotspots at coffee shops and airports are convenient, but since they are publicly available, they are not secure enough to protect others from stealing your data across the network. Keep in mind that when you checkout online, you’re sending your address and credit card information across a wireless network that others are also using. These days, it doesn’t take hackers much to tap into that data and use it for their own gain. When possible, try to limit your use of free wireless networks for just casual browsing.

Question 4: Which payment method should I use?

Use extreme caution with websites or apps that only accept checks, wire transfers, or money orders as the forms of payments.  Cards are preferable, but consider using credit cards over debit cards as they generally provide better buyer and fraud protection if your account is breached and you need to dispute charges.  Review your account statements often to make sure the only transactions listed are the ones you authorized.

Question 5: What else can I do protect myself from while shopping online?

Online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay not only sell products themselves, but also offer products sold and shipped by third-party sellers. Before making a purchase on these sites, take a few minutes to look at comments and reviews to see how others rate the seller and quality of the product. If you see a lot of negative reviews (or no reviews) you may want to shop around for a different seller. Also, be sure to check for the seller’s contact information, such as a phone number or address, in case you have issues and need to coordinate a return or refund.

You should also take some time to check your password habits. Are you using a unique password for each account, especially for banking and other important sites? If not, you could be at risk of a hacker cracking your outdated password and accessing your accounts. Learn more about improving your passwords.


Online shopping can make the holidays merry and bright when you are doing everything you can to make secure purchases. Use these tips to stay safe this holiday season and be sure to check out #ElonSecure on Twitter for more cybersecurity tips!




Christina Bonds

Christina Bonds

Christina Bonds, CISSP, is an Application Developer at Elon University

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