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Cybersecurity expert offers consumer safety tips for online holiday shopping

Crystal Graham
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Long lines, busy parking lots and huge crowds have pushed a number of holiday shoppers online in recent years. However, with online shopping, there also comes a heightened cybersecurity risk for consumers.

Virginia Tech cyber expert Aaron Brantly shares the following safety tips for preventing online scams.

10 tips for holiday shopping

  1. Watch out for fake websites and scams. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  2. Shop only from a secure computer and consider using a service such as PayPal or Apple Pay.
  3. Do not use a debit card if possible.
  4. Make sure that any website you engage in commerce on has “SSL” often viewed as a lock icon on Safari and Chrome.
  5. Limit the amount of personal information you disclose.
  6. Search on retail sites (Walmart, Amazon, Target, Best Buy, etc.) rather than using search engines and use “trusted vendors.”
  7. Consider what you are purchasing: where was it made, what types of data will be used by it and will it collect, what are the terms of service associated with its use, does it meet security standards, is it manufactured by a reputable producer?
  8. Review your credit card statements and banking statements regularly to identify potentially fraudulent purchases.
  9. Use a password manager (Keychain, LastPass, 1Password, or similar) to create unique user IDs and passwords for each site you visit. DO NOT reuse passwords or usernames – particularly those that are used on banking, billing or medical sites.
  10. Consider shopping locally – local businesses have been especially hard hit over the last couple of years.

Brantly is an associate professor of political science at Virginia Tech and director of the Tech4Humanity Lab. He has worked on issues related to cybersecurity from multiple angles, including human rights and development, intelligence and national security and military cybersecurity.


Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.