(BPT) - Holiday crime used to mean break-ins and thieves swiping packages from your doorstep. But now there’s an increasing number of cybersecurity threats specifically looking to capitalize on the holiday season. With many people getting new devices, using unfamiliar networks and doing lots of online shopping, bad actors have plenty of targets to choose from. By following these simple steps for data protection, you can keep your digital information secure this holiday season.
Be careful when using insecure Wi-Fi networks
If you’re traveling or out shopping during the holidays, you may find yourself on an unfamiliar Wi-Fi network. Many stores, airports and rest stops offer free Wi-Fi as a convenience, but often those networks aren’t secured. That makes it especially risky to make online purchases because the traffic from your device can be easily monitored and stolen. If you are using public Wi-Fi networks, then browsing to any website, make sure your connection is encrypted and secure by looking for the lock icon in the top left of the address bar. Also, always double check that the address you are navigating to is what you expected. Many modern devices, like the ASUS NovaGo, now feature built-in LTE, which offers a more secure experience for your online holiday shopping.
Don’t rely on passwords alone
Passwords and user IDs are a staple of cybersecurity, but they can only get you so far. To further ensure your data stays protected, consider using password management and verification apps. They let you use your face, fingerprint, eyes or other methods to access your data across devices. For example, the Microsoft Authenticator app adds an extra level of security with two-step verification that allows you to access your Microsoft account and apps quickly and securely without having to remember a password.
Avoid phishing scams
With so many companies emailing holiday promotions, it can feel like your inbox is under assault. In fact, it very well could be. Some of those emails may be phishing scams designed to steal your private information. To protect your data, don’t click on any unfamiliar links and carefully review all notifications from your bank to catch any potentially fraudulent activity.
Remember, scammers can be sophisticated. They may use personalized emails to gain your confidence or replicate the style of a well-known financial services company. If an email or link looks the slightest bit suspicious, don’t click it. Go directly to your bank or other online account to confirm the information independently.
Back up your data
If all your data is stored in one place, it’s vulnerable. Bad actors can lock up your device and demand payment to release your files. That’s why backing your data up to the cloud is critical for protecting your files against ransomware attacks. The cloud allows you to safeguard your data and access it from multiple devices. Cloud storage services like Microsoft's One Drive are secure and can also let you easily transfer your data if you’re upgrading to a new device this holiday season.
Utilize privacy screens
Preventing people from looking over your shoulder and stealing your information is the simplest and easiest way to protect your personal data. When online shopping in public, use privacy screens to hide your information. Some devices, like the HP EliteBook x360 and HP Spectre x360, have integrated privacy screens that instantly shield your screen with the push of a button. If your device doesn’t come with one built in, you can purchase a privacy screen from the Microsoft Store or another retailer.
Keep software current
Using a modern operating system — like Windows 10 — with the latest security updates and built-in anti-virus protection like Windows Defender Antivirus is the best way to ward off unwanted intrusions this holiday season. Major tech companies continually upgrade software to account for the latest cybersecurity threats so you can be confident your data is protected. By keeping your software current, you can avoid many cyberattacks before they cause problems this holiday season.