Authored by a Symantec employee
On the first day of Christmas, a friend shared with me: A social scam that nearly took all my money.
Our social networks can multiply the cheer of the holiday season. What’s nicer than a platform that allows us to interact easily with faraway loved ones, often in real time? However, social networks can also have their naughty — and downright dangerous — side during the holidays. Follow these tips to stay safe from social networking scams:
Beware Video Links
There’s a reason cat videos are so popular on social media — cats are cute! But watching cats playing with Christmas tree tinsel could, in fact, be risky. Tip: No video, no matter how cute, is worth giving up your personal information, even if all your friends are LOLing and sharing it. If you are required to provide your details in order to watch a video, just don’t.
Be Charitable, But Careful
Cybercriminals have learned how to turn our emotions against us. During the holidays, our desire to be extra kind and generous could make us vulnerable to fake charity scams that pop up in your social networks. If you receive an email or shared post soliciting monetary donations, don’t click on the links. Tip: Always verify the authenticity of the organization by checking on Give.org or Charitynavigator.org. Then go directly to the organization’s website to make your donation.
On the second day of Christmas, my love put on my PC: A free software program that made it so totally wonky.
When you’ve budgeted all your money for Christmas gifts, paying for antivirus may be at the bottom of your list, but the old adage that you get what you pay for can often apply to free software — especially if it isn’t backed by a well-known, reliable company. Read these tips to stay clear of bad freeware:
Pay the Price for Reputation
Not all freeware is dangerous, but don’t take chances when it comes to protecting your devices and your identity. There’s always a price tag for freeware, and that fee can range from bothersome advertisements to constant alerts prompting you to upgrade to a paid version. Tip: Read the terms and conditions before you install that freeware. With less-proven security companies, downloading free software means you are the fee — because your personal information and data will be shared with third parties.
Don’t Fall for Fake Anti-virus Software
One common — and ironic — method cybercriminals use to con victims is to disguise malware as free anti-virus software. Typically, the victims download a free “antivirus” solution. Then not long after, the bogus software alerts the victims that their computer is infected with a virus and prompts them to use a credit card to pay to have the nonexistent virus removed. The victims then unwittingly provide their credit card information to a cybercriminal, opening themselves up to identity theft. Tip: Protecting your device and identity are worth a price that costs way less than 5 golden rings. Opt for a proven and trusted anti-virus suite like Norton Security, which includes protection for up to five devices.
On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: A gold ring he bought online, which turned out to be phony.
Online shopping has made holiday shopping more convenient. No circling the mall for parking or standing in long lines for you! But online shopping comes with its own headaches if you’re not careful. Read these tips to shop safely online:
Follow the Signs of Security
When shopping online the most important step is to make sure the website you’re shopping on has a URL that starts with “https”. The “s” stands for “security” and means your transactions on that site are encrypted and secure. Tip: Look for other visual indicators of security, such as a lock symbol, green color in the address bar, or the Norton Secured Seal.
Shop Sites You Know and Trust
The temptation to get a bargain may be strong, but sticking with reputable shopping websites you know and trust is key. Nobody wants to give their credit card information to a phony website and risk identity theft, or buy an important gift — like a ring — only to receive fake merchandise. Tip: Some shopping sites offer extra protection for their customers. Purchases from online stores with the Norton Shopping Guarantee automatically come with a lowest-price guarantee.
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: An email saying I’d won a shopping spree!
During what should be a joyous time of year, cybercriminals take advantage of people’s generosity and interest in shopping. Beware of spam and scams, and check out these tips:
Don’t Fall for Phishing Scams
Phishing emails seem to come from people you know, but they’re really from scammers who have enough of your personal information to entice you to open their email. For example, you might get an email from your “boyfriend” telling you to click on a link to claim your free shopping spree prize. Tip: If it seems to good to be true, it probably is. Never click links or open attachments in suspicious emails.
Be Smart About Spyware
Scammers can install spyware on your computer, giving them access to your personal information, which they’ll then use against you. If your computer is running slower or you start to see more popup ads than usual, you may have spyware. Tip: Be selective about what you download to your computer, and get anti-spyware protection from a strong security suite, such as Norton Security.
On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: A smartphone that’s totally trendy.
For many of us, our smartphones have become extensions of ourselves, and we can’t imagine living without them. Because these devices are so important to our daily lives and hold so much personal information, it’s crucial to protect them. Follow these tips to secure your smartphones:
Start with the Basics
Smartphones are only as secure as we make them. According to the 2015 Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report, a shocking 31% of smartphone users around the world do not use a passcode for their phones. Tip: Be sure to lock your smartphone with a passcode or touch ID.
Add on Mobile Device Security
When you think about all you do on a smartphone, it becomes clear that these devices are actually powerful mini computers. As such, they’re also vulnerable to some of the same viruses and malware as your PC or Mac. Tip: Install mobile device security software on your smartphone. Fortunately, there is an app for that, such as Norton Mobile Security.
Think Before You Download
Many smartphone apps are fun and functional, which is why people love them — whether for keeping track of holiday cookie recipes or playing games. However, you should only download apps from reputable app stores, such as Google Play and the Apple App Store. These have rigorous standards to keep malware-laden apps off of your smartphones. Tip: If you still want to download apps from third-party sites, consider that Norton Mobile Security warns you of potentially dangerous ones before you download them.
On the sixth day of Christmas, my PC gave to me: Malware that almost drove me to insanity.
Malware, short for malicious software, refers to cybersecurity risks such as viruses, adware, spyware, and Trojan horses — the equivalent of online coal in your stocking. These programs are specifically engineered to compromise a computer’s security features and give hackers access to your personal data. Read these tips to avoid malware:
Keep Your Software Up to Date
Start by installing a computer security software suite from a reputable and trusted brand. Then be sure to keep that software up to date by always installing the latest patches and updates as soon as they’re available. Tip: Patches and updates are typically released to fix recently discovered vulnerabilities in software. Updating your software whenever prompted is the best way to stay secure.
Power Up Your Password
Using a password or passcode to secure your devices is fundamental, but not everybody takes this basic step. Create passwords that are complex, using a combination of numbers, special characters, and upper and lowercase letters. Tip: If you struggle to remember all your passwords, try a password manager, such as Norton Identity Safe.
Think Before You Link
Malware is most often distributed via spam emails containing links or attachments that, when clicked on or opened, install malware on your system. Stop to think before you decide to click on a link, even if the email appears to be sent by a reputable company or a good friend, because hackers can spoof email accounts. Tip: Always check links before clicking on them by hovering your cursor over the link. If you don’t recognize the destination URL, don’t click. If you’re uncertain, type the URL into Norton Safe Web, which will warn you if the site is unsafe.
On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: A smart watch that’s oh so sporty.
In addition to tablets and smartphones, wearable devices are highly desired Christmas presents. Follow these tips to use yours safely or to gift along with your smart present:
Read the Fine Print
Secure Your Wearable and Yourself
Although wearable devices access a lot of your personal data, these technologies lag far behind others when it comes to built-in security. Many apps for wearables transmit login credentials through clear text. If you use a fitness tracker, chances are most of your data is transmitted via Bluetooth LE or wireless Internet, and is not encrypted. Smart hackers could intercept data if they are within range. Tip: Turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when you’re not actively sending data. A fun fake username, like Rudolph2016, plus a strong password will keep you safer from hackers and stalkers.
On the eighth day of Christmas, my PC gave to me: A locked screen demanding money.
In the olden days, highway robbery was a real threat. Now, in the online days, Internet superhighway robbery in the form of ransomware is becoming all too common. Follow these tips to avoid having your computer held for ransom:
Start Secure and Stay Secure
Computer security software, whether a basic anti-virus program or a full Internet security suite, is your first line of defense to prevent falling victim to ransomware. These programs will alert you to viruses or other malware that could leave your system vulnerable to hackers. Tip: Choose solid security software from a trusted brand, like Norton by Symantec. Avoid free anti-virus, especially from companies you’ve never heard of.
Back It Up
Hackers deploy ransomware to encrypt the data on your computer and prevent you from accessing your own information. Although dealing with ransomware can be scary, backing up your files will make the ordeal less so. If you have backup copies of all your important data, then you won’t have to worry about the files the cybercriminals encrypted. Tip: Back up your files regularly. Some computer security suites, such as Norton Security Premium, include backup.
Never Pay the Ransom
If you find a ransom note on your computer screen demanding money in exchange for unlocking your computer, don’t panic. And never pay the ransom. Once paid, the cybercriminals rarely, if ever, decrypt your files. Paying them may even encourage them to try to extract more money from you. Tip: With backed-up files, you can tell the hackers to bah-humbug off and you won’t have to worry about paying ransom. Use tools like Norton Power Eraser to rid yourself of the ransomware.
On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love set up for me: All of my fancy new IoT.
Who doesn’t want a brand-new TV for Christmas? And a high-def smart TV playing a continuous loop of a burning Yule log may be even more desirable. But it’s not only smart TVs that are popular; smart homes themselves are trending with people who want convenience paired with wireless technologies. These tips can keep your new Internet of Things devices protected from cybercriminals:
Fortify Your Connected Home Network
When it comes to IoT, your smart things are only as secure as your home’s Internet router — which is also the easiest point of entry for hackers. Be sure your home Wi-Fi network is using WPA2 encryption and change the default name and password on your router. Tip: Also make sure the main devices you use to control your smart home (think desktops and smartphones) are protected with strong passwords, two-factor authentication, or good security software, like Norton Security Premium, which protects up to 10 devices.
Control Your Data
On the tenth day of Christmas, cybercriminals stole from me: My personal information and my identity.
Identity theft is a growing problem that consumers can only do so much to prevent. It’s important to know which preventive steps you can take, but also how to get your identity back if it is stolen. Read these tips to stay one step ahead of identity thief Grinches:
Protect Your Computer
Identity theft is especially hard to prevent because you have to protect your identity both online and off. The access point for your digital information is most likely your computer, so make sure it’s secure. Tip: Install a full Internet security suite for optimum protection. Some suites, like Norton Security, offer protection for multiple devices, including smartphones and tablets, for a single subscription fee.
Secure Your Mailbox
Would-be identity thieves often target unsecured mailboxes to access your information. The mail you receive — and send — is full of personally identifying information that thieves could use to access your existing accounts or to create new ones using your identity. Tip: Put a lock on your mailbox, or pay for a P.O. Box. That way you won’t have to worry about having your new credit cards or health insurance cards stolen and then used to compromise your identity and ruin your credit.
Call in the Professionals
No matter how vigilant you may be about shredding all mail and documents containing your personal information, or how careful you are about securing your online life, you can’t control all of your data. It’s already out there — at your doctor’s office, your school, your favorite local store. And, depending on how secure their systems are, your information could end up being part of the growing number of data breaches. Tip: Many companies offer identity theft protection, with varying features. Norton Identity Protection Elite provides unlimited access to a U.S.-based team of experts who will work around the clock to monitor your identity. If they see something suspicious, they’ll send you an alert and address the issue immediately.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: A powerful and shiny new PC.
Starting fresh with a new PC is on many people’s Christmas lists. Whether you’re receiving or giving, keep your digital gifts more secure this holiday season by following these basic tips:
Create a Strong Password
Use passwords to keep your device secure when not in use — or in case it gets misplaced or stolen. Choose passwords that are complex, using a combination of numbers, special characters, and upper and lowercase letters. Tip: Create a password by using a favorite song (or Christmas carol) for inspiration, but swapping some numbers or special characters for letters. Like, T12dOxMa$.
Choose Reputable Security Software
Always install Internet security software from a trusted company to protect your new PC or Mac. Tip: Check out Norton Security to keep that new laptop safe.
Update All of Your Software
Whether your laptop or other device is old or new, always updating to the latest software can keep it protected. Tip: Most software updates or patches are released to fix vulnerabilities found in a previous version, so installing the latest version will always offer maximum protection.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, Norton gave to me: A new sense of security.
Wishing you a secure and happy holiday season!
~ Norton by Symantec
Symantec Corporation, the world’s leading cyber security company, allows organizations, governments, and people to secure their most important data wherever it lives. More than 50 million people and families rely on Symantec’s Norton and LifeLock comprehensive digital safety platform to help protect their personal information, devices, home networks, and identities.
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