One of the internet’s great benefits is the ability it gives us to shop for almost anything at any time. Online shopping offers tremendous convenience during the holidays, and it can be especially appealing if you have a long shopping list and are not fond of crowds. Not only will we be shopping online more this season, but high-tech connected devices are on many wish lists as well.
The National Retail Federation is estimating an increase of between 7 and 10 percent in online shopping this year – with as much as $117 billion dollars being spent online. In a recent survey we conducted at the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), 36 percent of people reported planning to purchase internet-connected gadgets and gear for family and friends. Staying cyber secure this holiday season is going to require both shopping safely and making sure any new devices we buy remain secure.
One piece of good news from our survey is that many people appear to be trusting their instincts. Of the people surveyed, 25 percent had abandoned a purchase in the last year, with nearly 10 percent abandoning two to four transactions. The top three reasons for not completing a purchase were:
- Too much information was being asked of me in relationship to the transaction (47%)
- I could not determine if my information was being handled securely (36%)
- I just did not feel confident about the transaction (32%)
It also appears that people are getting a bit more savvy about using connected devices. Many survey respondents reported having taken the following security precautions:
- Changing the password on a device before using it (47%)
- Trying to understand what personal information the device collects, how it is being used and how it is stored (45%)
- Reading information from the manufacturer about how to keep the device secure over time (34%)
- Keeping Internet of Things (IoT) mobile apps (e.g., Nest, doorbell, video camera and security system) up to date with the latest software updates (30%)
- Researching the past history of security/privacy concerns about a device (27%)
Despite taking steps to secure their devices, 62 percent of respondents admitted to being “somewhat confident” to “not confident at all” about these devices’ safety and security. And an astounding 66 percent either are “not sure” or do not think there is enough information available on how to secure their devices.
And while it’s great that levels of awareness and action are rising, more than 50 percent of respondents said they had not changed the default passwords on devices. Compromising devices with default passwords was a major cause of the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack last month that impacted much of the internet.
NCSA encourages everyone to take these key steps for shopping safely and securely online this season:
- Lock down your login: One of the most critical things you can do in preparation for the online shopping season is to fortify your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device. Your usernames and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts like email, banking and social media.
- Keep clean machines: Before searching for that perfect gift, be sure that all web-connected devices – including PCs, mobile phones, smartphones and tablets – are free from malware and infections by running only the most current versions of software and apps.
- Conduct research: When using a new website for your holiday purchases, read reviews and see if other customers have had a positive or negative experience with the site.
- Get savvy about Wi-Fi hotspots: If you are out and about, limit the type of business you conduct over open public Wi-Fi connections, including logging in to key accounts like email and banking. Adjust the security settings on your device to limit who can access your information.
Be alert for scammers as well. The holidays tend to be very busy times for us all, and the bad guys know this. Using email, social media posts and even text messages, they will be out there trying to get us to click on links, open documents or share personal information that we shouldn’t. So have your antennae up for things that seem suspicious, like urgent notices about failed transactions or shipping issues, and be alert to offers that have pricing way below what every other merchant is offering.
If you give the gift of connected technology, help make sure the recipient knows to how to use their new device safely and securely:
- Make sure the router it’s connected to has had the password changed and software updated.
- Take time to understand and use any controls around information collection and sharing.
- Be clear about what might be needed as time goes to maintain the security of the device.
Most of all, enjoy the holiday season!
NCSA Survey Methodology
As part of widespread efforts to promote online safety education and awareness, NCSA commissioned Zogby Analytics to conduct an online survey of 1,215 adults in the United States on Nov. 9 and 10, 2016. Based on a confidence interval of 95 percent, the margin of error for 1,215 is +/- 2.8 percentage points.