Author: Sharonne Gaither, Senior Information Security Officer, North Dakota Information Technology
The holiday season is a time of warmth, sharing, and merriment. Yet, it's also a period when scammers are more active than ever, seeking to take advantage of unsuspecting individuals. With the surge in online shopping, charitable contributions, and festive events, it's essential to be cautious and safeguard yourself from potential holiday scams. Here are some strategies to help you avoid scams during this holiday season.
Digital Safety: Guarding Your Online Presence
- Avoid Installing Unauthorized Software: Exercise caution when downloading and installing software. Stick to reputable sources and official app stores to avoid downloading potentially harmful software that could compromise your device's security.
- Verify Email Attachments Before Downloading: Be cautious when it comes to email attachments. Before downloading any file attached to an email, confirm that it originates from a legitimate source. If you have any doubts, reach out to the sender to validate its authenticity.
- Double-Check Links Before Clicking: Take a moment to hover your cursor over links in emails and on websites to preview the URL before clicking. Avoid clicking on links that appear suspicious or redirect to unfamiliar websites.
Device Security: Protecting Your Gadgets
- Secure Your Devices: Whether it's your smartphone, tablet, or computer, always remember to lock your devices when they are not in use. This simple step can help prevent unauthorized access to your personal information.
- Use Strong Passwords: Enhance the security of your devices and online accounts with robust, unique passwords. Refrain from using easily guessable passwords like "123456" or "password." Consider using a passphrase or a password manager to create and store complex passwords securely.
Internet Safety: Safeguarding Your Online Connection
- Exercise Caution with Public Wi-Fi Networks: Public Wi-Fi networks, such as those in coffee shops and airports, may lack the necessary security. Avoid conducting sensitive transactions or accessing confidential information while connected to public Wi-Fi. If needed, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your internet connection and add an extra layer of protection.
- Utilize a VPN for Remote Work: If you need to access your organization's network remotely, always make use of a VPN. This secure connection method helps safeguard sensitive company data from potential breaches.
By adhering to these precautionary measures and adopting a proactive approach to online safety, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to holiday scams and cyberattacks. It's important to keep in mind that cybercriminals tend to exploit the holiday season, making vigilance more critical.
While the holiday season embodies joy and goodwill, it is critical to remain vigilant and cautious to safeguard yourself from potential scams. By implementing these strategies and relying on your instincts, you can enjoy a secure and worry-free holiday season, ensuring that cyber criminals do not undermine this cheerful season. Always remember to think twice and click once during this special time of year. Visit defend.nd.gov for more tips and information to protect yourself.