By adhering to cybersecurity best practices, you can protect yourself and your business from cyber risks during the holiday season and throughout the year

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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By adhering to cybersecurity best practices, you can protect yourself and your business from cyber risks during the holiday season and throughout the year

The holidays are when many people get together with their loved ones, rest, and enjoy hearty home cooking. However, hackers see this as their best opportunity to launch an attack.

In fact, research indicates that the incidence of cyberattacks increases between Christmas and New Year, when organisations and individuals are less vigilant.

Cybercriminals increase their activity throughout the holiday season. With an increase in online shopping, gift-giving, and travel, fraudsters have more opportunity to exploit naïve individuals and organisations. As a result, it is critical to be cautious about cyber security during the holidays.

Fake shopping and travel platforms
Cybercriminals make fake shopping and travel websites during the holiday season. The aim of these websites is to deceive users into thinking they are legitimate sites and steal their personal and financial information. These fake websites frequently imitate the style and branding of well-known, actual companies to appear genuine.

These shopping and travel websites offer great deals and discounts that are too good to be true. For instance, they may provide incredibly low pricing on popular holiday gifts or travel packages. When individuals attempt to take advantage of these discounts, they are required to provide their personal and financial information, which hackers then use to commit fraud or identity theft.

Similarly, hundreds of fake social media pages are being created, offering goods, products, and travel deals to defraud users by collecting payment for never-delivered products or services. For instance, a social media page or account may sell a gift that never arrives, and a false travel website may promote a non-existent trip package. Many times, hackers are able to get money from clients who don’t know what they’re doing and then disappear, leaving their victims without the goods or services they paid for.

Phishing scams
Phishing scams are the most prevalent sort of internet crime around the holidays. These scams aim to get sensitive personal information, such as passwords, credit card details, and addresses, by sending phishing emails or text messages that look to originate from reputed companies, brands, or persons. Cybercriminals frequently use phishing scams to steal people’s identities or get access to their accounts.

Card cloning or skimming
Card skimming is a prevalent cybercrime throughout the holiday season. This occurs when fraudsters attach devices to card readers, such as those at petrol stations or ATMs, in order to steal card information when individuals use their cards. The cybercriminals can then use this data to make fraudulent purchases or sell it on the dark web.

Ransomware
During the holiday season, there is an increased danger of ransomware attacks. Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts a victim’s files, rendering them unavailable unless the perpetrators are paid a ransom. During the holidays, cybercriminals frequently target small businesses and individuals, knowing that they are more likely to pay the ransom to recover their files in time for the holidays.

Best practices
During the holiday season, you can protect yourself and your business from these and other online hazards by taking the following precautions:

• Be cautious with online shopping: only shop on secure websites, and verify that the site is secure by looking for the lock icon in the address bar. Also, ensure that the passwords for your online accounts are secure and unique, and avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.

• Use two-factor authentication: This increases the security of your accounts by asking you to input a code sent to your phone or email in addition to your password when signing in.

• Be vigilant about emails or texts from unknown senders, and never download files or click on links from unknown sources.

• Be sceptical of promotions and discounts that appear to be too good to be true. If an offer appears to be like that, it is most likely fake.

• Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails or social media posts from unknown sources. Instead, enter the URL straight into your browser to navigate directly to the website.

• Keep the security software on your devices updated.

• Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks to access the internet.

• When using a card at petrol stations or ATMs, be aware of the possibility of card skimming. If at all feasible, use a credit card instead of a debit card, as credit card providers typically give greater protection against fraudulent transactions.

• Regularly back up your important files so that you can retrieve them if they are lost or encrypted by ransomware.

By adhering to these best practices, you can protect yourself and your business from cyber risks during the holiday season and throughout the year. While the Christmas season is a time for celebration, it is also a time to increase cyber security vigilance. Taking the aforementioned precautions may ensure that your holiday season is joyful and safe.

The author is Triveni Singh, SP, Cyber Crime at UP Police.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members