Black Friday is coming up! However, just as it is important to prepare for possibly the biggest shopping spree of the year, it’s also vitally important to be cyber-aware and know how to stay safe online. Read this blog and learn everything you need to know to stay safe!
What Is Black Friday?
We will start from the top – Black Friday usually marks the “start of the shopping season” for Christmas and while the term is mostly used in the US, as time went by it became more and more popular everywhere across the EU as well. The Monday after the so-called Black Friday is often called Cyber Friday (a reference to low-cost deals in the cybersecurity space), and the same week (the week after Black Friday) is sometimes referred to as “Cyber Week.”
Black Friday is famous for its deals – when Black Friday is going on, many stores across the world offer huge discounts for multiple products (mostly all products within the store.) Discounts can sometimes reach as high as 80% or 90% – that’s precisely why many shoppers look forward to it.
While some people opt to shop in physical stores, as these are swarmed by people the majority of the time, many shoppers look forward to shop online as a result. As many people opt to shop online, it’s vital to know some of the ways we can employ to protect ourselves from cyber crooks. Let us walk you through a couple of them.
Staying Safe on Black Friday
To stay safe when shopping online on Black Friday, the first thing you need to do is avoid public Wi-Fi networks. If you cannot do that, use a VPN to encrypt your connection – the reason why is that if you don’t and a malicious party is nearby, your entire Internet connection would be wide open to interception. Not a good sign.
Aside from that, keep in mind that if you use your laptop in a public place, it’s a good idea to close it down before you leave it unattended – a small, yet sometimes costly detail.
Advice for Individuals
The aforementioned advice will help you protect yourself as far as physical items are concerned. As far as the browsing itself is concerned, though, you should also be wary of a couple of things:
First off, avoid visiting websites at the peak of the purchasing time (2 to 4 PM): during that time, websites ought to receive a lot of traffic, and as such, will likely operate more slowly than usual.
The second thing to keep in mind is that you should always keep your devices up to par. “Up to par” in this case means to keep them always updated – it’s not that hard for an attacker to catch you off-guard and install spyware onto your computer once you’re focused on shopping.
Also, avoid opening unexpected attachments: cybercriminals are smart and late November – early December is exactly the time when they start sending unsolicited emails and SMS messages instructing us to “immediately change our password”, “check up on this purchase someone just made within our account”, “set up two-factor authentication for security purposes”, etc. – always double check who’s sending the email you just opened, and if you don’t recognize the sender, don’t click on any links.
Use only trusted websites to do shopping on – as Black Friday is getting nearer, consider making a list of trusted vendors and use that list to shop only on trusted websites to avoid steering into a website made by a nefarious party to deceive you and steal your money.
Last but not least, don’t forget to check whether the websites you shop on have SSL certificates on them – the answer to such a question will most likely be “yes” than “no” (these days, most websites have SSL on them), but if you find a website that doesn’t, that’s a definite red flag.
Advice for Organisations
While the advice given above might work for individuals, organizations would need way more protection than that; a good way to stay safe on Black Friday would be to keep a very vigilant eye and monitor all ingoing and outgoing emails to general-purpose marketing emails: info, marketing, etc. as nefarious parties are more likely to send out junk and phishing emails.
When monitoring the traffic flowing back and forth from your email, don’t neglect general security advice, and don’t cut corners on security either. Instruct your security team to keep a vigilant eye on all of the necessary assets your organization holds and if necessary, introduce the highest level of security (if your security policy has such a feature) for a couple of days until the craziness dies down.
If your organization is small and you don’t employ any security policy, however, it will be up to plugins & other security solutions to keep you safe – consider installing and keeping an eye on plugins that inform you of potential security weaknesses within your code, plugins that inform you once a potentially malicious file reaches your infrastructure or plugins that inform you once the code changes.
Also don’t forget that numerous security solutions protect organizations during and after holidays as well – a data breach search engine provided by BreachDirectory is one of them. BreachDirectory is also widely known for its data breach API feature – the BreachDirectory API lets organizations scan through hundreds of data breaches and responds with data telling its users where a specific account has been breached at the same time assisting in OSINT and similar operations. Give it a try today!
Black Friday is one of the biggest sale events of the year – and staying safe during this event is as important as never before. In this blog, we have provided you with a couple of takeaways that individuals and organizations can employ to further their security posture. Make good use of the advice provided in this blog, and until next time!