Risk spikes with increased hacking during holiday season

Contact: Stacey Markin
Headshot, Alan Rea.

Dr. Alan Rea

Data experts agree that people's personal data is at greater risk during the holidays.

The holiday season brings increased attacks against point-of-sale systems, e-commerce sites and mobile phones, according to Dr. Alan Rea, Western Michigan University professor of business information systems.

"Although there are always attacks against our data and devices, the holiday season is rife with more deceitful websites, phishing scams, e-commerce hacks, and overall attempts to steal financial and personal information," Rea says.

He notes that people's defenses may be down at this time of year because hacking attempts may masquerade as retailers they have previously shopped with online or even charities they have given to in the past. But while Rea says people cannot protect all their data, he offers a few helpful tips they can take to protect themselves during this season when data may be more vulnerable than during the rest of the year.

Tips

  • Never click on email links asking you to login to a site to change or verify information. Instead, type the site address in your web browser and update the information there.
  • Although we expect discounts on goods and services at this time of year, be wary of offers that are too good to be true. Even if a website looks legitimate, if you have never purchased anything from the company before, consider using a pre-loaded cash card to avoid the loss of financial information.
  • Be cautious of email and phone calls from organizations asking for donations. If you want to give, consider contacting the organization directly.
  • Remember that your smartphone—or tablet—is a powerful computer. Although mobile operating systems might be considered somewhat more secure by users, these devices can just as easily download malware or visit malicious websites. Use caution when providing information via websites or recently downloaded apps.

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