Christmas, shopping time. But watch out for scams!

Security Awareness
21 December 2022
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All the nice things, I’m in! Christmas is a greedy time and not just at the table. Everyone is caught up in the frenzy of consumption, a collective euphoria of exchanges, purchases, orders, shipments and reservations. And we know that today, most of these transactions take place online. Cybercriminals, therefore, are celebrating more than anyone during this time, as they use these periods of great movement and distraction to take their best shots.

In this regard, some recent research by Check Point Software,analysing the data relating to the activities of the month of November, concluded that 17% of all malicious files distributed by email were related to orders, deliveries and shipments; while since the beginning of last month, 4% of all new websites created related to shopping were illegitimate, highlighting a thematic concentration in phishing fraud.

To protect our most precious assets, the first rule is to never lower your guard and carry out every transaction with great awareness and presence of mind.

However, it is good to briefly review some basic protection concepts.

Pay attention to the names written in website domains

When creating fake domains similar to the original web page, hackers often introduce typos and misspellings, often even in the domain name. In this case, we can immediately notice the scam.

Watch out for little-known e-commerce sites

During the Christmas holidays, fake websites attract consumers with fake offers. The goal is to convince the customer to buy with lower prices. Once the payment has been made, however, the goods will never arrive at the buyer’s home. So before you pay, you’d better check that that site actually exists and is tried and tested.

Too good to be true

When an offer is too tempting, it is good practice to be wary. Very low prices are often a lever used to attract attention and hide a scam that will result in us losing money, data and valuable time. So, in the end, that illusory saving will be largely outweighed by losses.

Never shop online using public Wi-Fi

What could be more convenient than shopping from our mobile phones, perhaps while we wait for our flight at the airport, or while we are sitting at the station or sitting in a bar that gives us access to an external network. We can connect quickly and save on data usage. This is all true, but the transaction involves high risks.

Networks are often unprotected and can be easily breached, putting the personal information of those who use them at risk.

Therefore, it is always better to avoid using public Wi-Fi networks for sensitive activities, such as online banking or shopping. It’s better to use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your Internet connection.

Don’t spread your email address around for nothing

Beware of sites that invite you to sign up to receive a newsletter or targeted promotions. In this case, the purpose is to get our email address and then use it to feed spam campaigns or to send us malware.

Protect your browser

Malicious ads are one of the main risks for internet users. For this reason, before starting to buy online, it is better to install an adblocker, to avoid displaying infected ads that, if clicked, will install a virus on the device. It is also important to update your browser frequently.

Using a web filter

There are several filters for websites online. This is a continuously updated list of various malicious portals. If we accidentally click on one of these websites, the computer warns us and prevents us from entering. Installing a filter on our PC is very simple and inexpensive. Before we start shopping for Christmas, let’s bear it in mind.

A password manager is always better

The password is the first door the hacker encounters. They may find it armoured or wide open, depending on how careful we are about using strong passwords. Therefore, always using the same password, perhaps with our name and date of birth, is strongly discouraged but, at the same time, creating and remembering long and always different passwords is not easy. For this reason, the advice is to use a password manager.

Watch out for mobile apps

As Christmas approaches, there are more apps that promise to help you find the best deals when buying gifts for friends and family. Be careful though, many of these apps actually hide a scam. The advice to avoid falling into this trap is to buy exclusively on official sites and only via PC, where you have installed antivirus systems that can recognise false phishing portals. And of course, you should only download apps from official stores.

Social engineering

Last but not least, let’s remember that hackers are geniuses of social engineering and that they bend over backwards to carry out their scams. Especially in busy times such as around the Christmas holidays, the sending of emails or phishing messages that claim to come from a reliable source is very common, from online shops or transport companies and that have the aim of inducing people to provide personal information or money. In addition, they may contain dangerous attachments, such as viruses or malware that can damage your computer.

Awareness of the risks can make a difference

The moral is always: that we must always pay close attention to the actions we perform online. Because even a small mistake can be fatal. The best antidote is, as always, a knowledge of the risks, an awareness of one’s actions online and an appropriate digital posture that can only be obtained thanks to correct and continuous training.


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