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The holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year for scammers and hackers. Individuals, businesses, and organizations need to tread carefully. Ransomware attacks have continued to climb, with phishing emails being the primary method of attack.

Phishing emails are especially risky as they are disguised as a trusted source, making them easy to mistake for the real deal. A personal device that has been compromised by a careless click on a phishing email or a download from a phony e-commerce site is capable of spreading ransomware across your personal or business network, sometimes within seconds.

Cyberattacks and scams don’t have to dampen your holiday season. We’re sharing 5 simple tips that prevent cybercrime from being the Grinch that steals your holiday shopping experience.

Tip #1: If It’s Too Good To Be True, Don’t Click

That unknown website selling the sold-out Xbox? The 90 percent discount from subtly misspelled “Walmartt”? Chances are those incredible offers probably are just that: incredible. So, think before you click — or worse, disclose your username, password, or credit card number.

Tip #2: Don’t Assume Your Friend is Your Friend

Since the pandemic, we’re all feeling a bit distanced, especially as the holidays roll around. And friends and family are more important than ever. But that unusual email from your old college friend may not be what it seems. And what looks like a fun attachment — or one posing as an emergency demanding fast action — could be poised to wreak havoc. Don’t assume that your friend is actually your friend, it could be a scammer who is attempting to be successful in a phishing scheme. Again, think — or verify with your friend — before you click.

Tip #3: Manage your passwords

Nothing gets a hacker into the holiday spirit like the same weak password used for multiple accounts. But keeping track of different, complex passwords can be a hassle (though not nearly as big a hassle as malware, ransomware, or identity theft). A secure password manager makes it easy to employ a unique password for each website you use. That way, even if you do get hacked, the damage will be limited.

Tip #4: Double the trouble (for hackers)

Two-factor authentication is one of the best ways to dampen a hacker’s holiday spirit. The best, like Cisco’s Duo Security, are heavily encrypted, benefit from a vast, global infrastructure, and are simple to use. But any device, app, or service that supports two-factor authentication between different services will be a good choice.

Tip #5: Stay up to date

Software developers work hard to constantly improve their work, fix bugs, and stay ahead of hackers. But if you aren’t updating your software, you’re missing out on all those benefits. The good news is that automatic software updates, which were once problematic, are now highly reliable. So, turn them on and let them keep your systems up to date for you!

We Made The List, So you Can Check it Twice 

Cybercriminals love low-hanging fruit. And for them, nothing says “stocking stuffer” like an unaware online shopper. None of this is to suggest that falling prey to holiday cybercrime is unavoidable or that the potential damage can’t be mitigated, but it is important to educate yourself, friends and family to safeguard the holiday season.

The best thing about this list? The solutions are easy to follow, inexpensive (or free!) and highly effective. So be sure to check it twice. And spread the season’s joy to your loved ones — not the hackers.

For more tips about staying cyber-safe this holiday season, check out these related articles:

 

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