3 Ways to Avoid Cybersecurity Threats this Holiday Season

3 Ways to Avoid Cybersecurity Threats this Holiday Season

Shoppers are estimated to spend a record $656 billion in retail sales this holiday season, something cybercriminals are looking forward to.

Frantic, busy shoppers (if they are anything like me) are usually focused on one thing during the holiday season, getting what they need and getting the heck out of those crowded malls. They are usually too preoccupied to think they might be in process of getting hacked.

In order to safeguard yourself against an attack, keep these three things in mind while shopping this season:

Detect Risky Networks

Studies show that even if a person is shopping in a physical store, they are still likely to browse the web looking for coupon or deals. In order to save money on their data plans, shoppers may look to find a WiFi connection nearby.

In a recent Mobile Threat Intelligence Report, Skycure found that hackers are counting on shoppers to connect to networks in stores. Cyber criminals converge where there are lots of people, and malls during holiday season is the perfect place. During this circumstance, they are able to catch many devices that are connected to networks that have been misconfigured or could expose your communications.

Skycure found that a majority of malls around the country have risky WiFi networks, but Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas had the most with 14 mobile networks that could have exposed users’ data. Other malls like Tysons Corner Center in Virginia and Yorktown Center in Illinois had at least 5 unsecured networks.

Sometimes hackers are preying on weak Wifi networks, and other times they are planting malicious networks to attract users. Skycure found fake networks labeled, “macysfreewifi,” “Belk_Guest,” and “Apple Store” at several malls. If you are going to sign into a store’s Wifi, see if the name of the network is posted in the store or ask an employee if they offer free Wifi for customers to avoid fake networks.

Sense a Fake App

Hackers are getting a little cleverer each and every year. One third of e-commerce purchases made last year during the holiday season was made on smartphones. In order to tap into that group, cyber thieves have designed fake apps to gather your data.

Skycure asks shoppers to be aware of “repackaged” apps. Apps that look exactly like the real thing, but have a small amount of malicious code added in. These apps will do bad things in the background while you have it open on your phone.

Sometimes malicious apps aren’t even trying to replicate anything. Skycure found an instance where a hacker created an app called “Amazon Rewards,” an app that is not listed anywhere as an official app for Amazon. By promising “rewards” to users, people are more likely to download the fake app.

In order to avoid these apps, make sure you are installing applications straight from the Apple App store or Google Play.   

Update your Device

Cybersecurity firms are finding security holes in mobile phones every day. Companies like Apple and Android very frequently roll out updates to the operating system in order to patch vulnerabilities and keep your phone as secure as possible.

Once vulnerabilities are widely reported, any hacker can keep an eye out for a device that may not have been updated to fix the security hole. Be sure to update your OS as soon as new updates roll out. It could be the extra step that keeps your data safe.

This holiday season, make sure you keep your eye out for networks that may be acting strangely, apps that ask to use too much of your data and operating system updates that help to close security holes. If  you see any of these things, tweet them to me at my handle @1105Sydny.

Posted on Nov 22, 2016

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