Every year Cyber Monday sets new sales records.
The Monday after the U.S.'s biggest brick-and-mortar shopping day a year opens the online shopping season with a flood of sales and deals that are often better than what you'll find in person, without the crowds.
But whether you're shopping for presents or not during the next month, advertisers and online criminals will assume you are. And if they aren't targeting your wallet, they may be after the private photos and videos we all keep on the hard drives of our computers or devices.
Right now, you can get our F-Secure SAFE protection on 5 PCs or devices with 200 GB of free secure cloud storage.
Until December 6, we're giving away one free license for SAFE on 5 devices along with 200 GB of storage and a SAFE hoodie for free each day on our Facebook page. Read the the rules and enter now.
And while you're shopping on any device, stay skeptical. Stay focused. And keep up the same online shopping and storage hygiene you should be practicing all year long:
1. Make sure your system, browser and security software are patched and protected.
If it's software, it requires updates. As developers have become better at reminding you to update your software, there's become more to update. So keep up with your operating system updates and make sure you're running updated security software.
2. Do all your shopping in in one browser. No Java.
Our Security Advisor Sean Sullivan advises that you do all of your financial transactions in one browser that you only use for shopping and banking.
“Too many tabs open, too many things going on – that’s when you’re most prone to click on a malicious link or download something you shouldn’t have," he said.
So use Chrome for surfing and Firefox for the serious stuff.
Whichever browser you use for your transactions, you should disable Java in it -- and all your browsers if possible. If a certain website you need to use requires Java, enable it in just one browser that you use only for that site.
3. Stick to stores/sites you trust.
Bad grammar and poor design have been the warning signs of malicious sites and emails for years. But criminals are always upping their game.
Your best bet is to avoid untrustworthy sites in general, just as you likely avoid unprofessional looking stores and people who randomly try to sell you stereo equipment from their van.
Avoid shopping via Google. Go directly to sites you trust and search there.
4. Only shop over a secure connection -- VPN and https.
If you're shopping via Wi-Fi, make sure you're on a network you trust or secure yourself with a virtual private network like F-Secure Freedome. This will encrypt your data to protect your passwords and other private data. Freedome also protects you from scams and trackers, which may use your data to sell you things that do not fit your budget.
To make sure your data is secure as it's being transmitted, don't enter your private data unless you see you're on a secured connection where the url starts with "https". If you're not seeing that, move on to the next store.
5. Use one credit card for all your online shopping -- or use credit card alternatives.
Limit your damages. If your data is captured by a crook, chances are your credit card company will catch any irregularities. However, you still may be left without a card during the holiday season.
Using only one card for online purchases also makes it simpler to keep focused on how much you're spending.
For extra security, Sean recommends that you see if your bank offers virtual credit card numbers that can only be used once.
6. Check your statements.
You do this? Right? If you don't check your statements to make sure all the charges are yours, who will?
7. Do not reuse passwords.
It's like putting the same lock on your house, car, boat and safe. Your passwords for your crucial accounts are sacred and need to be unique and strong. This isn't easy, which is why we recommend a password manager. You can use our F-Secure KEY on one device for free.
8. Have a secret email account for online shopping.
Sites like Amazon allowing you to use your email for a login, which is convenient. It also means anyone who knows your email, knows your login and is halfway to cracking your account. A simple solution is to use a special email account that you with with no one that you use as login for financial accounts.
9. Back up everything.
What's on our devices and PCs is worth more than the hardware themselves because they represent the thing we can never get back -- time. During the holiday season, your phone is filled with memories of celebrations and gatherings that will only happen in that exact way once. So make sure all your devices are backed up, all the time.
10. Use a cloud service you can trust.
As you know from the series of nude photos of celebrities released this year, the security of your cloud storage matters. The more people you have trying to hack you, the more your content is at risk. Using a service -- like our younited -- that offers two-factor authentication and is designed to protect your privacy.
[Photo by Mike McCune via Flickr]