Well, here we are:  It’s Black Friday, and mostly everybody is out shopping for the deals that they have dreamt of or wanting to get that something extra special for themselves.  But the trend nowadays is to actually shop from the comforts of your own home, and just click away as to what you want to get.  After all, you get away from the big lines, and you can have everything shipped directly to your doorsteps.

But with this in mind, and as I have mentioned before, this is one of those times that the Cyber attacker comes out in full vengeance in order to get all of the confidential information and data they can about you. So, it is imperative that you keep your guard up and try to stay safe.  Here are some of the top tips recommended by Cyber security professionals:

*Keep your computer and your wireless up to date with the latest upgrades and patches:

Yes, this is a pain, especially if you own a Windows 10 device or even an iPhone.  The patching process can take a very long time (depending upon the depth of them and how many have to be installed), and for a time, you may even freak out because you think that your device is not even working as it remains frozen in this process.  But stay calm, everything will come back to normal once again, it’s just better to be safe than sorry.

*Always use strong passwords:

OK, this is something that we keep hearing about, but I have to mention it yet again.  This is the one thing that the Cyber attacker is always after.  To them (and to you), these are the golden keys to the kingdom.  With it, they can access all of your account information.  How can you avoid this?  Create a password that is so notoriously long and complicated, even you won’t remember it.  Now you are asking, what is the point of doing it, even if you don’t remember it?  Well, this is where you need to make use a of a Password Manger.  This is something I have written about before, and essentially with it, you can create those crazy passwords and have the Password Manager not even just store it for you, but it will log you on automatically, create new passwords, and even provide alerts to you in real time as to when your passwords need to be changed.  This is something that you should do today, before you start shopping!!!

*Make use of Two Factor Authentication (2FA):

With this, you are essentially creating two layers of access that you have to break through before you can actually access your computer or your wireless device.  For example, you could enter your password first, then a PIN Number, or even answer a Challenge based question.  Realizing that these are still very weak forms of Security, many businesses and corporations are now making use of Biometric Technology as the second layer (such as Fingerprint Recognition and/or Iris Recognition).  But in my view, 2FA is not all that cracked up to be, because given the sophistication level of the Cyber attacker today, even two layers can be broken through quite easily.  But hey, something is better than nothing at this point.

*Be extremely careful of the Emails and links that you receive:

This is also the one time that Phishing scams also explode.  By this time now, your Email inbox could be flooded with enticing offers and deals.  But be weary of each and every one of them.  Take my advice:  Just delete all of them. Just take your own sweet time and shop at those online stores that can be trusted.  This simply means that they are encrypted with at least 250 Bits, but they should have at least 1026 Bits as the minimum.  How can you tell if you are at an encrypted site?  The best way you can tell is if you notice the “HTTPS” in the URL bar.  But even the Web Browsers these days also do a good enough job in notifying you if you are at a safe site or not.  After you conducted your financial transactions, always obtain a receipt, and within a few hours after that, check your online accounts to make sure that all looks legit and that there is no fraudulent activity that has transpired.  In fact, you should be checking your online accounts at least twice a day.

*Try to use cash or your credit card when making purchases:

If you use a debit card to make a purchase, and your account gets hacked into, you will be responsible for all the money that was stolen!  But if you make used of a credit card, Federal Law limits the damages to just only $50.00, pending further investigation of the fraudulent activity that took place.  But if you are using cash and have to withdraw money from an ATM, just follow the basic security steps (I have also written about these as well, just do a keyword search there or on Google).

*Don’t give away a lot of detail:

You are probably wondering how much is too much?  Well, only give out the bare minimum that you need in order to conduct a safe, and successful transaction.  More than likely, you will first have to create an account, in which you submit your confidential information and data, including your credit card number . . . but do not have your newly created account permanently store your credit card number unless you absolutely trust the online merchant!!!  Also, if you decide to engage in a transaction over the phone, never use an automated system.  Always speak to a live person, and make sure that you initiate giving your credit card number first, and not the other way around.  Also, if you do make a purchase over the phone, always ask that you get a receipt immediately, or at least some sort of confirmation number.

*Always conduct online transactions in a “Private Mode”:

The Web Browsers of today come with an extra functionality known as “Private Mode”.  This simply means that you are not allowing cookies to be automatically deployed (without your knowledge).  In Chrome, it’s called being “Incognito”; and with the other’s I am not sure what they are called.  If you have an iPhone, this is very easy to do, as you launch Safari, the option to go “Private” will immediately appear.  How do you know if you are in “Private” mode?  From my experiences, the Web Browser that you are using should turn into a darker shade.

Remember, even if you do all of the above, there is no guarantee that you still won’t be the victim of a Cyber-attack.  All you can do is just be proactive, always have the mindset that somebody is watching over your shoulders, and always keep checking your online accounts on a daily basis, and your credit report at least quarterly.  By doing this, if there is something that goes astray, at least hopefully you will catch it in time so that the risks will be mitigated.

Finally, remember this last thing:  Always trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, more than likely it is isn’t.