Cybersecurity Tips for the Holiday Season
The popularity of online holiday shopping has grown over the last few years. This year brings a new reason to shop from home as many people plan to limit their exposure to COVID-19 by avoiding shops and malls. While shopping online may keep you healthy, holiday scams and 2020 data breaches are lurking online. With each transaction, you expose your username, password, credit card number, and address to potential hackers. At BTC Bank we’re dedicated to providing the information you need for safe online shopping this year. Take a moment to review this comprehensive cybersecurity guide for 2020 before you tackle your online shopping list.
Understanding Cybersecurity Terminology
Before you can implement the tips in this guide, you may need a basic understanding of common words used to describe internet safety. Here’s a brief rundown of cybersecurity terms.
IP Address: This is the home address for your computer. It identifies you when navigating the internet.
VPN: VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. A VPN is a tool that provides the user with anonymity while using the internet by encrypting their traffic and masking their location.
Firewall: A firewall can be a software or hardware defense tool that serves to block unwanted traffic from accessing your personal or business network.
Breach: A breach occurs when a hacker breaks through security measures and gains access to a network and its files.
Malware: A type of software used by hackers to cause problems on your device.
Spyware: A type of software used by hackers to spy on your computer activities, perhaps recording keystrokes, harvesting your data, or monitoring your activity.
Keeping Your Information Secure
Whether you are shopping online or a professional working from home, keep your information safe and secure. Utilize these tips from the State of Missouri and Federal Trade Commission to help protect your information online and on your device.
Tips for Home
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software on any device that accesses the internet -- your home computer, work computer, or phone. Enabling auto-update on your devices will ensure you have the most up to date security measures in place.
- Your wifi router is a basic firewall that serves as a barrier for those trying to access your internet connection and the data transferring over the internet. Secure your wifi connection with a wireless encryption. A WPA/WPA2 encryption is stronger than a WEP encryption.
- When submitting information through online login-ins and forms, be sure the website is encrypted. An encrypted website has a URL that starts in https:// not just http://. Some browsers may also display a padlock symbol near the address bar to show the website is secure and encrypted. If you’re unsure about a web site, this Google tool can tell you if it’s safe.
- Use strong passwords that are at least 11 characters long. Use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols that is significant only to you. Avoid using common words and phrases. Make unique passwords for different sites instead of using the same password across all platforms.
- More details and home cybersecurity tips for Missouri are available on the Missouri Cybersecurity Website.
Tips for Work
- Create a strong password and keep it secure. Don’t share your password with anyone, including the IT department. Always enter your password yourself, and don’t write it down where people could find it.
- Stepping away from your computer at work can leave your private information vulnerable to theft. Whenever you step away from your computer, log out or lock the computer so a password is required for access.
- Individual files on your computer can be encrypted to block unauthorized access. Require an additional password to open any files that contain sensitive information.
- To avoid data loss, backup your files and sensitive information frequently. You never know when a breach will occur and you don’t want to lose your important files.
Keeping Your Small Business Safe
A lot of focus is placed on consumers and employees keeping their information safe online. What about small businesses? Cybersecurity tips for small business owners are out there; you just need to look in the right place. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) offers advice on cyber essentials and a cyber essentials toolkit for small business owners. Here are some key tips for protecting your small business from cyber threats.
- Identify your business’s critical information. This could be customer data, research, or trade secrets.
- Develop a long-term defense plan to minimize risk and vulnerability.
- Research and implement industry standards and best practices for cybersecurity. Bare minimum compliance isn’t going to provide adequate protection.
- Foster a “What if?” mentality. Don’t assume your cyber defenses are impermeable. Explore the worst-case possibilities and plan for them.
- Develop cybersecurity plans that include specific incidence response plans, business continuity plans, and disaster recovery plans.
- Keep up to date on emerging cybersecurity threats. Some common sources for these notifications include: CISA Alerts, Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures, and Carnegie Mellon University’s Vulnerability Notes Database.
Cybersecurity Holiday Tips
Online retailers tend to offer incredible deals around the holidays. Unfortunately, data breaches are more common this time of year as the internet is flooded with credit card numbers and new shopping accounts. Don’t let holiday scams put a damper on the joy of the season. Follow these cybersecurity tips for holiday online shopping and reduce the risk of compromising your personal information.
- Only buy from reputable online companies that you know and trust. If you haven’t shopped there before, read reviews and check the security of the website. Remember that it should start with https:// not just http://.
- Always type the website into the address bar yourself - don’t click on a link to a website that was emailed or texted to you. Many scammers count on you clicking that link and then redirect you to a fraudulent website to steal your account information.
- Pay with your credit card instead of your debit card. Credit cards offer more fraud protection. Check your credit card and bank statements often to verify that no unauthorized transactions are being made. The sooner you catch fraud, the easier it is to stop the damage.
- Beware of email and SMS (text) phishing scams. Don’t click on links or open attachments sent to you from unknown people or businesses. Emails containing fake purchase confirmations and fake tracking information are trying to bait you into clicking their links. Don’t do it! Test your “Scam IQ” with this short quiz featuring examples of phishing emails and text messages.
- Scan your emails for viruses, if possible. Some email services, like Google’s Gmail, automatically scan incoming and outgoing attachments for viruses.
- Never provide personal information through an email or linked web form. If you believe the request for information is valid, call the company directly.
- Be skeptical of requests for charitable donations from organizations that you haven’t given to in the past. Charity Navigator provides a database of organizations that you can research and verify before donating.
Wrapping Up 2020
It’s been a challenging year for our community. As we continue to monitor COVID-19, remember to practice safe internet use when you search for news. Make sure to visit only trusted web pages, such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website, the Missouri Health Department website, and the Iowa Health Department’s official site. At BTC Bank, our goal and commitment is to equip you with the tools and knowledge you need to keep your information safe. For any questions or further information, please contact us. We look forward to seeing you this holiday season at one of our Missouri branch locations in Albany, Beaman, Bethany, Boonville, Carrollton, Chillicothe, Gallatin, Maysville, Osborn, Pattonsburg, and Trenton or at our Lamoni branch in Iowa. At BTC Bank, we’re “Community Minded…Just Like You.”