Shop till You’re Hacked? 3 Tips to Stay Secure this Holiday Season

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With just days until Black Friday, the unofficial kick off to the holiday shopping season is quickly approaching. In anticipation of the busiest time of year for e-commerce, this year we conducted a survey, Stressed Holiday Online Shopping, to understand how financial pressure can impact buyer behavior when it comes to online purchasing and cybersecurity. Let’s take a look at what we can learn from our key findings we garnered from surveying 2,472 adults in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 55, dive into how the results can help consumers avoid the common pitfalls of holiday shopping and cybersecurity, and learn how they can protect both their devices and digital lives this season.

Deals, deals, deals! When it comes to online shopping, consumers care about saving money

The economic burden of the holidays is something consumers know all too well. With an onslaught of holidays and parties in which gifts are expected for family, friends, or co-workers, it’s no wonder that 79 percent of survey respondents said that holiday shopping puts financial stress on them and/or their families. No doubt, from stretching a budget and bargain shopping to attempting to purchase several perfect gifts when sales are fleeting, browsing and purchasing for the holidays can feel overwhelming, which may be why 53 percent of respondents shared that stress can lead them to be careless when online shopping.

More than half of consumers (56 percent) said that they would use a website they were unfamiliar with if it meant they would save money, while 51 percent shared they would purchase an item from an untrusted online retailer to get a good deal. Thirty-one percent would click on a link in an email to get a bargain, regardless of whether they were familiar with the sender.

This season, many will make online purchases, many will use their phones to do so, and even more will unknowingly put themselves at risk when it comes to cybersecurity

When a good deal pops up, it’s hard to pass up – whether you’re in a tricky financial situation or not. This especially rings true when it comes to mobile purchases. The convenience of our phones – which are always with us – lends itself to taking advantage of deals and flash sales that pop up to make impulsive purchases. This always-on access also paves the way for the path to purchase to be much faster and to occur more often.

Perhaps the accessibility that mobile provides is why this holiday season, e-commerce industry experts are predicting that for the first time ever, more online purchases will be made with mobile phones than any other device. That’s right; rather than reach for a laptop or tablet or call out to our virtual assistants, 68 percent of e-commerce visits will be made from our smartphones that are always by our side – whether we’re in a secure setting or not. In fact, 22 percent of McAfee survey respondents shared that they would make online purchases over public or unsecured Wi-Fi, which could potentially expose their private information and payment details.

Our survey also found that while only 6 percent of respondents would be willing to risk having their bank account details fall into the wrong hands for a good deal, 39 percent would risk sharing their email address, 25 percent would wager their phone number, and 16 percent would provide their home address. The problem with this mentality is that through common attacks like phishing, it takes only a bit of information to lead a hacker to gain more of your personal information under the right circumstances. These results illustrate that when it comes to shopping online –regardless of device type– consumers are in it for the holiday deals while unknowingly ignoring their cybersecurity in the process.

Consumers use a variety of ways to discern whether a site or content is unsafe, but rarely report phishing

Fortunately, most people aren’t completely throwing caution to the wind in terms of cybersecurity. Our survey found that consumers use a variety of tricks to scrutinize a website or email in order to interpret safety and danger signals. Half of the respondents check the website design to make sure it looks professional, and 49 percent check for spelling and grammar.

However, 14 percent shared they had no idea how to verify a website and wouldn’t know where to start. Similarly, many people are unfamiliar with how to discern a fake mobile app from an official one. Which is troubling, since last year it was reported that one in 25 Black Friday apps were fake, with at least 15 malicious Black Friday apps for each of the top five U.S. e-commerce brands.

Tips to Stay Safe While Online Shopping This Year

Between the impact of stress on online behavior and constantly evolving cyberthreats, it’s clear that there is a need for re-education on how to stay safe online, especially as cybercriminals are becoming smarter and more relentless. This holiday season, before you whip out those credit cards and mobile devices, consider these tips:

  • Always connect with caution. Public Wi-Fi might seem like a good idea, but if you are not careful, you could be unknowingly be exposing personal information or credit card details to cybercriminals who are snooping on the network. If you have to conduct transactions on a public Wi-Fi connection use a virtual private network (VPN) such as McAfee® SafeConnect to help keep your connection secure.
  • Think before you click. One of the easiest ways for a cybercriminal to compromise your system is by using phishing emails to lure consumers into clicking links for products or services that could lead to malware, or a phony website designed to steal personal information. If the deal seems too good to be true, or the email was not expected it’s always best to check directly with the source.
  • Browse with security protection. Use comprehensive security protection, like McAfee Total Protection, which can help keep devices protected against malware, phishing attacks, and other threats. It includes McAfee WebAdvisor which can help identify malicious websites.

Starving for more stats? Check out last year’s survey on hackable holiday gifts. Stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats by following @McAfee_Home on Twitter, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Categories: Consumer, Mobile and IoT Security

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