How to stay safe from cyber security threats over the holidays

 Cyber Security

As the holiday season approaches, so do increased cyber threats. The holidays are peak shopping season, when online transactions surge and people are more vulnerable to digital attacks.

In an increasingly digital world, cyber security is not just important—it’s essential. This guide offers practical steps to secure your online activities during the holiday season, ensuring peace of mind while you enjoy the festivities.


What are the risks?

Cyber threats come in many forms, but some of the most common include phishing, malware, and credit card fraud. These threats tend to spike during the holiday season when online activities increase. Phishing emails may pose as holiday deals, malware could be hidden in downloadable content, and credit card fraud can occur when you shop on unsecured websites.

The potential impact of these threats is severe. They can lead to identity theft, financial loss, and compromised personal data — ruining more than just your holiday spirit. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), in 2022, there were 70,878 reports of fraud in Canada, with over $530 million stolen.


Types of cyber-security risks

The realm of cyber threats is vast and perpetually evolving. Understanding the various types of risks is the first line of defence. Here are some of the most prevalent ones:

  1. Phishing scams: Fraudulent attempts to obtain sensitive information by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity. During the holiday season, attackers often send phishing emails disguised as exclusive offers or urgent messages from a known service or store.
  2. Malware: Malicious software, or malware, includes viruses, worms, and ransomware. These harmful codes can infiltrate your computer system, often through seemingly innocent downloads, causing damage or granting unauthorized access to your data.
  3. Credit card fraud: Occurs when an unauthorized user gains access to your credit card information and makes purchases or withdraws money from your account. Unsecured online shopping sites are a common source of credit card fraud during the holiday season. Additionally, phishing and malware attacks can lead to credit card or banking loss.
  4. E-skimming: This is a relatively new threat where cybercriminals inject malicious code into e-commerce websites to capture your credit card information as you enter it. This technique is becoming more prevalent as online shopping surges.
  5. Identity theft: This is a severe threat where attackers obtain and use your personal information, such as your social insurance number or bank account details, often resulting in significant financial losses.

Staying informed about these risks and how they operate is a crucial step in ensuring a safe and secure digital holiday season.


Effective cyber-security practices

In today’s digital world, ensuring your online safety is paramount. But how can you protect yourself from cyber threats?

  1. Establish strong passwords for your accounts and enable two-factor authentication wherever possible. This adds an extra layer of security that can deter hackers.
  2. Always connect to secure Wi-Fi networks, especially when making online transactions. Public Wi-Fi networks are often unsecured and can expose your personal data to cybercriminals. Using a VPN can assist with keeping your data secure if you need to use public Wi-Fi.
  3. Keeping your software and devices updated is another crucial step. Software updates often include patches for security vulnerabilities that have been identified since the last version.
  4. Practice secure online shopping by using reputable websites and checking for secure payment options. Look for the padlock symbol in the URL bar, which indicates that the site uses encryption to protect your data.
  5. Pay attention to email addresses when you get emails that need urgent action or ask for you to click links. Often, you can swiftly detect phishing scams by verifying the sender’s email address.

Examples of good and bad cyber-security practices

Let’s compare two scenarios – John who practices good cyber-security and Jane who doesn’t.

John’s case: John is cautious about his online activities. Before making an online purchase, he carefully checks the website’s URL for a padlock symbol, indicating it’s a secure site. He uses strong, unique passwords for all his accounts and updates them regularly. John avoids clicking on links or downloading attachments from unfamiliar emails, avoiding potential scams or malware. He also keeps his devices up to date with the latest software versions, including essential security patches. Moreover, John only connects to secure Wi-Fi networks when conducting online transactions and uses a personal VPN to reduce the risk of data interception.

Jane’s case: On the other hand, Jane takes a more relaxed approach to cyber-security. She frequently shops online without checking the security of the websites she uses. Her passwords are simple and repetitive across multiple accounts, making them easy targets for hackers. Jane often connects to public Wi-Fi networks when shopping online, exposing her personal data to potential cybercriminals. She also clicks on links and downloads attachments from unknown emails, putting herself at risk of phishing scams and malware. Jane rarely updates her devices, leaving her vulnerable to security loopholes that could have been fixed with updates.

The contrasting habits of John and Jane highlight the importance of diligent cyber-security practices, especially during the holiday season when cyber threats are on the rise.


Reduce holiday stress: Check out cyber insurance coverage with Westland Insurance

The holidays can be stressful enough with events and obligations. Why spend more time worrying about a cyber incident?

By integrating cyber security coverage into our suite of offerings, Westland ensures that your digital life remains as secure as your physical life.

We’re committed to providing comprehensive insurance coverage that includes cyber security protection. We recently partnered with BOXX Insurance, a global insurtech, to enhance our cyber insurance coverage. The Cyberboxx policy includes a suite of cyber tools to prevent online threats and comprehensive insurance coverage, including:

  • data breach insurance
  • identity theft
  • cyberstalking
  • cyber-attacks
  • and more!

One of the key features we’re most excited about is its worldwide coverage, which is essential for Canadians who travel overseas. Cyber risks are higher while travelling, as clients are tempted to connect to less secure Wi-Fi networks at hotels and airports and are typically not as guarded to watch for online scams. Boxx also provides peace of mind by offering access to BOXX Hackbuster experts for hands-on live assistance in the case of a digital emergency.

Don’t wait until it’s too late – choose from our hassle-free online or in-branch purchase options for comprehensive BOXX cyber insurance coverage. Let’s ensure this holiday season is filled with joy and free from cyber threats. Contact us today!