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Technology in Focus | ‘Tis the season to be cyberaware - IT experts warn consumers to remain alert for scammers during Christmas season

Published:Wednesday | December 11, 2019 | 12:33 AM
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We are just a few weeks away from Christmas, and bustling holiday shopping has already begun. But information technology experts are warning Jamaicans to exercise caution as cybercriminals are also looking for opportunities to scam holiday shoppers.

IT infrastructure manager at MC Systems, Collin Burgess, said that cyber attackers are using more sophisticated measures to adapt to consumers’ evolving digital lifestyles. He says the most common tricks are being used via email and text phishing.

“What they do is target persons who shop online and send unsuspecting users email messages through an attack method, termed ‘spear-phishing’, which is a targeted attempt to steal sensitive information, such as account credentials or financial information from a specific victim, often for malicious reasons,” he explained.

LEVERAGING DATA

Burgess said that the attackers disguise themselves as a trustworthy friend or entity to acquire sensitive information, typically through email or other online messaging. This is the most successful form of acquiring confidential information on the Internet.

He further notes that cybercriminals leverage data collected from breaches to assess users and decide how they can target shoppers with social engineering and artificial intelligence (AI).

The IT infrastructure manager said that scamming can also take the form of using IP cameras to other Internet-connected devices, such as thermostats or sensors and appliances, which are Internet of Things devices.

“Many of these devices enter the home with no form of security controls built-in, and cybercriminals will likely focus on exploiting consumers via these gadgets,” he said.

Burgess advises shoppers to use a comprehensive security solution, such as antivirus software, which he said can help to improve safety during shopping online, as it provides safer web browsing, virus protection, and more.

... Evaluate deals, check account statements

Chief information technology officer at The University of Technology, Jamaica, George Brown, is however warning consumers to be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.

“Do not make payments over public or open Wi-Fi. Review your online account settings and keep your payment information personal,” Brown said. “Develop good password habits, change them often, and use unique ones that are hard to guess.”

He also urged shoppers to watch out for fake online stores.

When possible, purchase from the online stores you already know, trust, and have done business with previously.

Bookmark online stores you have visited before and trust.

TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE

Look out for prices that are significantly better than those you see on the established online stores.

If the deal sounds too good to be true, it may be fake.

Be suspicious if the website resembles the one you’ve used in the past, but the website domain name or the name of the store is slightly different.

“For example, you may be used to shopping at Amazon, whose website address is www.amazon.com, but end up shopping at a fake website that has a similar website address, where the letter ‘o’ is replaced with the number ‘0’,” he said.

In terms of online payment, Brown said that consumers should regularly review their credit card statements to identify suspicious charges. And, if possible, enable the option to notify them by email, text, or app every time a charge is made to your credit card.

“If you find any suspicious activity, call your credit card company right away and report it. Avoid using debit cards whenever possible. Debit cards take money directly from your bank account. If fraud has been committed, you’ll have a much harder time getting your money back,” Brown advised.

For feedback about this article, please send an email to solutions@mcsystems.com. Additional reporting from https://securingtomorrow.mcafee.com/blogs/consumer/consumer-threat-notic...