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Happy Holidays! With Black Friday and Cyber Monday past for 2017, we’re now in the full holiday shopping season. Here’s some holiday shopping tips so you can stay safe online.

  1. Shop only at trusted retailers. Scammers and hackers love to purchase domain names almost identical to big-name retailers. The differences can be subtle, like www.amaz0n.co or www.amazin.com versus the regular site. They can pull down exact copies of the real site and host them. If you’re unlucky enough to stumble across them and make a purchase, they steal your credit card info and redirect you to the real site. Just like that, they have your personal financial information. Only shop at retailers you trust. Bookmarking the legitimate site is a good idea. Typing it in a search engine, not so much.
  2. Shop only at secure sites. Make sure the site you’re visiting uses SSL. You can tell because the URL begins with https:// instead of http://. Certain browsers also have a phrase like “secure” in the address bar. Others even make it a green color so you have one more way to tell. Don’t ever give your information to a site that doesn’t use SSL, since a hacker could be listening and could steal your data.
  3. Don’t give out too much information online. Even at legitimate stores, you shouldn’t need to give out more than your basic name, address, contact info, and payment information. There’s no reason they should ask you for social security numbers or other deeply personal information. If you see that, run, not walk, away.
  4. Monitor your finances. Log in regularly to your credit card and bank accounts. Check if there’s any charges you didn’t make. If you find them, dispute them according to your company’s process. It may also be worth it to pull your annual credit report early in the new year, in case someone opened a new card in your name.
  5. Practice good security. Just because it’s the holiday doesn’t mean you can stop worrying about security. Keep following good security practices. Use secure passwords (random words that include caps, non-sequential numbers and symbols with no references to information that is readily available on social media, like children or pet names). Change them regularly, and set a reminder in your calendar to do so. Use multi-factor authentication. Install a good antivirus and scan with it regularly. Also consider using additional tools, like MalwareBytes. If you’re a merchant, make sure your site is kept up-to-date and secure. Conduct regular security audits of your site, and only partner with trusted, compliant companies for payment processing and web development services (we can help too).

No matter what, stay smart, stay safe, and enjoy the holidays!

Secure Compliance Solutions LLC (SCS) provides a wide range of CISO advisory consulting and managed security services to small- and medium-sized businesses. We focus on readiness and resilience. We assist our clients navigate the increasingly complex world of cybersecurity, from advising executives on long-term cybersecurity objectives to training analysts and engineers on emerging trends and threats. As industry experts in cybersecurity policy and regulations, compliance, and system hardening and monitoring, SCS can help businesses address any cyber threats out there today, whether small or large, internal or external. We are your security champions and will be there every step of the way.