With high profile breaches in the news regularly, consumers have an increased awareness of online dangers and the constantly evolving tactics of cyber criminals out to steal their data.

But does this heightened awareness translate to more secure online habits? Too often, old habits are hard to break, convenience trumps security, or people simply succumb to “breach fatigue” and continue to take unnecessary risks in their online shopping. Besides their own personal and financial security, your employees could be putting your company’s critical data or systems at risk doing their holiday shopping from the same devices they use to work. Our December Security Tip should remind them to follow these basic best practices and save you both from a New Year data breach.

Update Malware and Antivirus Protection

Malware and antivirus tools need to be kept up to date to be effective. Now is a good time to be sure your company’s devices are all updated with the latest virus/malware definitions.

Don’t Shop Over Public WiFi

The public Wi-Fi available in coffee shops and stores is too often unsecured and poses and easy target for hackers. While you are enjoying a latte and thinking how convenient it is to be sailing through your holiday gift list from your tablet or laptop, someone could be working their way into your system and siphoning off your personal and financial data.

Only Trust Secure Sites

Even from a secured internet connection, if the site you are buying from has not taken the necessary steps to protect the information you provide, you are at risk. Depending on the web browser you are using, you may see a little green padlock or another symbol along with an “https” URL when you reach the site’s shopping cart area. Before you provide your personal or payment information, be sure you are on a reputable, secure store site.

Don’t Share Unnecessary Information

Even on secure sites, there is no need to share personal details such as your birthdate or Social Security number. Some stores will ask you to register and may request your birthdate. Sending you a deal or an email on your birthday may be a nice marketing gesture or good customer service. But it may also pose a risk. If, despite their best efforts, the store’s systems are attacked and your payment data is leaked, the cyber criminals could easily also have your birthdate and gain even greater access to your personal information or be armed with enough to steal your identity and open new credit accounts in your name.

Don’t Use Debit Cards Online

Many consumers have soured on using credit cards altogether. But, if you will still want the convenience of shopping online, using a debit card is just not safe. Credit cards offer better protections than debit cards. If something is mistakenly or fraudulently charged to your credit card you will be able to dispute the charges and stop access to the account. If hackers gain access to your debit card information, they can cause a great deal more damage pulling funds directly from your bank account and there may be little that the bank can do about it after the fact.

Check Statements Closely

It is important to pay close attention to charges that show up on your credit card statement. If you ever need to dispute credit card charges it is critical that you do so as quickly as possible. There may be a limited window of time that you have to call suspicious charges into question so you need to catch the error or fraud and report it immediately. Many credit card companies will ask you to forego paper monthly statements for online-only statements for your account. Unless you are very organized and diligent to review those online statements, it may be best to stick with an old fashioned paper bill each month. Just remember those paper statements can be tempting to “dumpster diving” thieves as well. Be sure to thoroughly shred any credit card statements or information before you throw it away.

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