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4 ways to avoid getting hacked these holidays

Don't get hacked these holidays. (Source: Getty)

The holiday break is a time to relax – but there’s one area where you can’t afford to drop your guard: cybersecurity.

In fact, the end of the year is one of the most dangerous times for tech users, as scammers target those doing online Christmas and gift shopping, according to Scamwatch as well as data experts.

According to identity governance firm SailPoint chief marketing officer Juliette Rizkallah, you need to protect yourself – and your tech, your identity and your banking details – from malicious operators lurking on the other side of the screen.

Here are some simple ways to protect yourself:

Think before you click

“‘Tis the season for a good deal, and what better way to find one than in your own email inbox,” said Rizkallah, adding that phishing scams tend to peak during holiday season.

“Australians should look out for suspicious emails by scanning the sender and contents.” Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it a valid contact?

  • Is the email address valid?

  • Does the message contain hyperlinks?

  • Do the hyperlinks go to legitimate websites?

“These are all important factors to consider when avoiding a phishing scam,” she said.

Beware of public WiFi

These days, it’s difficult to stay off-grid – even when taking some private time to yourself. And if we’re out and about, it can be tempting to join publicly available WiFi hotspots, but Rizkallah warns that there are security gaps we need to be aware of.

“The first is to avoid opening up your Wi-Fi network to other users, who potentially may be malicious, by using a secure password.

“Secondly, beware of the risks of using public Wi-Fi, which include the potential of data theft, malware distribution, and malicious hotspots, among others.”

If you want to use public WiFi, get yourself a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which makes it difficult for malicious actors to get access to your device via the public network, she advised.

Even your toys can be used against you

These days, everything from your fridge to your coffee-maker is a smart device. But some items that slip under our radar are internet-connected toys, which can contain microphones or cameras.

This means before you buy one as a gift for your child or for someone else, know what you’re dealing with first.

“If you still go ahead with the purchase, consider how the toy is connected to the internet. You can take precautions by using a password or pin to secure the connection,” said Rizkallah.

What kind of data does the toy collect? Find out and see if the device needs to be patched, she added.

Slow down

Often, holidays aren’t relaxing at all, with the amount of planning or travelling that it can involve. And that means that your mind is on other things and not on cybersecurity. But it helps just to take a second, said Rizkallah.

“It’s important sometimes to slow down, and to stop, think, and check before clicking.”

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