Be Careful Out There

‘Tis the season for identity theft. Yesterday was the big US shopping day known as “Black Friday”.  It’s called that because retailers go from being in the red for eleven months to finally making a profit for the year – at least that’s the idea. Today is Small Business Saturday when people are supposed to shop mainly from small, local businesses. Monday will be “Cyber Monday” when workers allegedly will use computers at work to buy holiday gifts online.

All this shopping means that cyberthieves will be out in full force trying to take advantage of harried shoppers. This means you need to take extra care when shopping online or in the stores. We’ve covered a lot of this before, but I want to reiterate some safety tips and add some new ones to help make you as safe as possible this busy season.

  • Keep track of what you spend. Keep all the receipts and check them against credit/debit card statements or bank statements (for ATM receipts). Check the statement right when it arrives so you can catch any issues in time to be protected. Keep the receipts for returns, of course.
  • Use disposable or temporary card numbers if your card issuer offers them. Not all do, but you should ask.
  • Check ATMs and credit card readers for skimmers. If things look fishy, don’t use the machine and ask or report the issue. Many skimmers are hard to find or invisible, but try looking anyway.
  • Cover your hand when you enter your PIN. Shoulder surfing is common and hard to spot this time of year.
  • Consider a service that watches your cards for suspicious activity. I use one and they even caught an email/password combo for sale on a hacker site. The $10 or so a month might seem like a lot of money, but risk and hassle if someone does steal your identity makes it more than worth it.
  • Be careful with PayPal and any online payment service, too.
  • Always ensure that payment to online stores is done over a secure connection! Make sure your browser is by looking for the padlock in the “address bar” or wherever it is on your browser.

The number one thing to do is to be aware that bad guys are out there. This is busy season for many of them. Please don’t be a victim – be careful.

Our course 468, System and Network Security Introduction is  mostly oriented toward commercial and government security, but we do discuss many small business and individual users. I’d love to see you there to talk about these and other security topics.

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