Security has been the hot topic of 2016. From massive data breaches to the worst ransomware we’ve ever seen, it’s extremely important now more than ever that proper precautions are in place when browsing the web for gift deals on friends and family holiday season.

There are many obvious advantages to shopping online, but with those advantages come with some very serious risks. Read on to find out how to keep your identity and information safe from prying eyes this holiday season.

Don’t rely on search engines to find a shopping site. Search results can lead to malicious websites that will take your credit card and other confidential data or hijack your computer with a virus. Instead, stick to using reliable online retailers like Amazon or Target.

Don’t click on offers in email. Spammers have offered deals like gift cards with major retailers or downloadable coupons for Black Friday sales. They are phishing schemes designed for you to give up your personal information.

Make sure your computer’s antivirus and malware protection is up-to-date and that a firewall is installed on your browser. This will help in protecting against the very latest attacks.

Use an updated browser. Shopping with the latest brand named browser such as Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, or Edge with the latest updates installed will help in protecting your information from adware, spyware, and phishing attempts.

Use strong passwords and update them frequently. We know this is said a lot, but it is actually one of the most crucial aspects of protecting your identity online. Create a password that is only unique to you and that combines letters and numbers. Avoid pet names, relatives, schools, and anniversaries.

Look for SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). Never purchase anything online from a site that does not have SSL encryption installed. You’ll know because the site will be displayed as HTTPS:// instead of just HTTP://. A padlock icon will also be displayed, usually in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser, or next to the URL in the address bar depending on your browser.

Be extra cautious of any ‘savings’ or ‘deals’ you come across on Social Media. Even if they are coming from a ‘friend,’ it is entirely possible that their account has been hacked.

Be careful with how much information you give out. Be ware of online stores that ask for information such as your social security number or birth date. If this information falls into the hands of a cyber-criminal, it’s considered to be key information for them to steal your identity. Try giving out as little information as possible.

Privatize your wi-fi. If you’re using a wi-fi connection, it is recommended that you only use the wireless if you can access the web over a virtual private network (VPN).

If you’re using a tablet or smartphone to shop, use apps that are provided directly from the retailer. It is recommended to use the app directly when making a purchase rather than going to the website on your mobile browser.

If you’d like more information on how to keep your identity safe when shopping online, please don’t hesitate to email or call us today.