"Christmas comes but once a year, and when it comes it brings good cheer"
Christmas is a wonderful time of year. Here in Australia, it's all about warm weather, great food and holidays. But, there are a few other things that Christmas brings. And online scamming is one of them. Online shopping is such a wonderful experience as it helps you to avoid all the crowds and frustration that's usually associated with this time of year. So before you begin shopping online for those easy to buy gifts, remember that there are some bad actors out there that will be trying to trick you into giving them your hard-earned cash - with nothing in return.
Here are some easy tips to avoid scams and hackers during the festive season.
Check those links!
Below is an example of a page that many people will be visiting this year. Everything looks good - but did you know that this page and many like it can be faked? And that if you don't look at the details closely, you may be going to one of these fake sites. Have a look at the area shaded in yellow - in this example it shows a padlock and the HTTPS extension. This shows that this page is the correct Amazon page and that it has been "secured" - that's the "s" behind the "HTTP". Make it a habit to check this every time you visit a web page - any web page because if it is not there, you might just be allowing an online scammer to steal from you. Always check, and be suspicious if a page has "HTTP" only - no "s" attached - please don't log in there. This is an easy trick that scammers use to steal your password details. I highly recommend a "browser extension" called "HTTPS-everywhere" which is available from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or eff.org. It's free, easy to install, and adds a layer of protection.
Beware of free WiFi
Mobile phones are everywhere and without us realizing, they have become the center of almost everything we do. Many of us tend to browse absent-mindedly even while having a coffee at our favorite cafe or restaurant. But in a recent home experiment, using free software I was able to capture all of the data, including passwords and usernames, in plain English from all of the mobile phones that were in the house that day. Now the key here if both free software - and access to the WiFi. If you have free access, who else does? And what are they doing with it?
The results of the experiment shocked me as I like most people thought that my information was safe. Not so. One step towards alleviating this is to install a VPN like Nord or Express Vpn on your phone. Hackers or "data-stealers" can still see that you are doing something, but your data is in encrypted, so they cant see what it is. That's comforting, but there are layers to staying safe.
Stored or saved passwords
Saving passwords on your phone makes life so much easier - right? But the big problem with this is that they are not encrypted by default. My home experiment, conducted as a part of an online security course showed this to be true. I strongly recommend using a password storage program like Last Pass and cleaning all the stored passwords out of the various apps on your phone. Yes, it might take a bit longer to do things, but if I can read the passwords of my family, others can too. Again, I recommend installing Last pass, then a cleaning app such as "C Cleaner" and others like it which you should schedule to run on a daily basis. That way any trace of online activity is removed from your phone, and hackers can't get at your secrets.
So just to recap - ALWAYS check the link. if there is no HTTPS - Don't log in. Protect yourself BEFORE using free WiFi. And stored passwords? clean those out and store them safely.
From all of us here at Your IT Team, we wish you a safe and happy Christmas. But, we urge you to take layered steps to protect yourself online as this is the time of year that hackers rub their hands with glee at thought of stealing your information, your secrets and your money!