Every November, as Thanksgiving gets closer, the thought of “holiday shopping” comes to mind. It seems to start sooner and sooner each year, but with the explosion of e-commerce sites and online shopping, finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list is easier than ever. You can now find all of your Cyber Monday steals in the palm of your hand; in 2017, US shoppers spent $1.59 billion using their phones for mobile shopping on Cyber Monday. But you’re not the only one taking advantage of online shopping this time of year. Hackers are out in full force, and they are constantly coming up with new ways to steal your personal information and money.
But we’ve got your back. We’ve come up with a list of the best ways to shop securely this holiday season, while still getting the best savings around.
1. Beware of the Fake Retail App
It has been known for a while that there are fake and malicious apps populating the Android app store. One of the marketed advantages of the Apple app store is that it is supposed to be free from fake apps that will harm your iPhone. But there have been reports over the last few years that there are an unprecedented number of fake retail apps in the Apple app store. Many slip through Apple’s reviewing process unnoticed, and only add the harmful code to the app once it’s been approved. The apps go by names almost identical to the original brand and trap you by using brand logos and images that are recognizable for customers. The truth is, fake retail apps are more common than you might think.
The risk when downloading a fake retail app is that if you go to purchase something from the app, you are essentially handing over your credit card number and personal information. Some apps have malware that can steal your details off the phone, for example by asking you to sign in to a social media account through the app.
As smartphones take an increasingly large role in our lives, more activities, like retail shopping, will take place on your mobile phone. To make sure you are protected on your phone this Cyber Monday, adding a VPN, like Express VPN, to your iPhone, Android, or Windows phone will throw hackers off your trail and protect your privacy.
2. Hide Your Passwords!
These days, we each have countless apps, accounts, and email addresses. It might be tempting to keep all of your passwords and account details in one, easy-to-find location, with the notion that this way, you can simply copy and paste your details to quickly grab those Cyber Monday deals when doing your holiday mobile shopping.
But don’t do it! Keeping all your passwords in one place is exposing your personal information out in the open for hackers to steal. Many people make the mistake of keeping passwords and credit card information in their Notes app. You might not know that there are other applications on your phone, like email services and productivity tools, that can access Notes (or similar applications). If a hacker or thief gains access to your phone, via email or a fake app, they can see all the information you left unlocked. To learn more about protecting your mobile phone with a VPN, check out this article.
3. Don’t Shop On Public WiFi!
With Thanksgiving just around the bend, you’re probably finalizing your travel plans for the long holiday weekend. While it might be tempting to spend your time in airport lines on your phone taking care of your holiday mobile shopping, you should steer clear of the airport’s free WiFi. Anyone and everyone has access to free WiFi (hence the name), so your phone’s data is highly vulnerable to attack by malicious software when you’re not on a private network. If you can, choose a password-protected network – or better yet, wait until you’re using a network you know and trust. It’s also a good idea to disable your WiFi from connecting to random open networks. To add an extra layer of protection when making online purchases, you can check out NordVPN, which supports iPhone, Android, Windows and more.
4. Keep Your Devices Updated!
Sometimes staying secure is as simple as clicking “Update” when your phone prompts you to update its software. Oftentimes, these software updates and bug fixes are issued for security reasons, and they will patch any holes in your phone’s security. By continuously checking for updates, you are taking an important step towards mobile security, and safe mobile shopping.
If you want to explore some of the best ways to maintain your privacy while grabbing those holiday deals, check out the following VPN solutions.