Loyola University Maryland

Technology Services

Holiday Cybersecurity Tips

As the holiday season is upon us, Tech Services would like to share with you online shopping tips to protect your information and your computer. 
1. Tighten up security before shopping on line. Make sure all software on your computer is up-to-date, including your OS, browser, and other apps. And if you don’t already have it, install a cybersecurity program on your desktop (whether it’s a Mac or PC) that prevents malware infection to insure maximum coverage. In addition, since mobile shopping is set to outpace desktop shopping for the first time this year, it’s a smart idea to download a cybersecurity program for your phone. If you’ve already covered your cybersecurity bases, make sure you run updates on all those programs as well.

2. The best way to get your attention is with a “stunning” price, so be wary of things that are too good to be true.  Go directly to a store’s website instead of using search engines to look for deals. If you happen to find a deal using a search engine, try to verify it by searching for the exact name of the deal in quotes. If it’s a scam, then it’s likely someone will have already put out a warning.

3. Give pop-ups and other digital ads the wary eye. Many pop-ups could contain fake coupons, redirect you to malicious sites, or expose you to cross-site scripting attacks. If a coupon seems to come out of nowhere with a too-good-to-be-true offer, don’t think twice. Just click that “x” and shut it down.

4. Watch out for social media scams, especially on Facebook. Cybercriminals are using fake or compromised Facebook accounts in order to post links to amazing deals that don’t actually exist. They’re especially prone to dropping links on the walls of open groups dedicated to shopping.  During any given holiday period there will be an excess of fake offers, deals, and supposed freebies which are used to trick you. If you’re being asked to share something on Facebook in order to receive a gift, you can bet there’s a scam involved.

5. Make sure you’re on a secure connection. Look for the padlock icon to the left of the URL when you go to check out. If it’s there, then that means the information passed between a store’s server and your browser remains private. In addition, the URL should read “https” and not just “http.”

6. Do not use debit cards to shop online. Using your debit card gives cybercriminals direct access to your bank account.  Play it safe by using credit cards or a PayPal account that’s linked to a credit card. While many banks are cracking down on fraudulent withdrawals, you’ll still have to wait for your money while they investigate the charges.

7. Watch out for making purchases over public or open Wi-Fi.  Namely, avoid using public Wi-Fi to shop. If you’re shopping and entering personal data, best to do it on your secure Wi-Fi connection at home.

8. Watch out for malicious QR codes. Q what now? QR codes are small, pixelated codes meant to be scanned by a smartphone’s camera. They often contain coupons, links to websites, or other product marketing materials. Some hackers have started creating codes that link to a phishing or malware site, printing them on stickers, and placing them on top of the legit QR codes. Best to avoid them.

9. When visiting online retailers, be sure to type the actual website address into your browser. Do not follow links provided by email offers, other websites or pop-up ads. In some cases, these links could take you to phishing sites or sites designed to infect your computer, and yet they are made to look exactly like the legitimate retail sites.

Another helpful resource is this Safe Holiday Shopping PSA