Security Tips You’ll Be Thankful for this Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Whether you plan to shop online or in-person at a store, follow these quick tips to help protect your personal information and make shopping safer this season. November brings two of the busiest shopping days of the year, plus some potential security risks, even if you never leave the comfort of your home. Because we care about protecting your budget, we also care about protecting your finances in other ways. Follow these quick tips to help protect your personal information and make shopping safer this season.

Beware incredible deals from unknown merchants

People shop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday because that’s when they can often find the best deals of the year. But these are also popular times for criminals to prey on unsuspecting shoppers. Cyber thieves cleverly take cues from the best-selling items to create fake sites or social media posts offering too-good-to-be-true deals. This is a form of phishing used in identity theft and a common way for crooks to steal your credit card number and other personal information.

A Better Business Bureau logo on a “merchant’s” site isn’t always proof of a legitimate affiliation. Truly, anyone can add the BBB logo on their site. To be sure, it’s best to verify directly with the BBB. You can also conduct your own online research to see if there have been any complaints or fraud allegations against a company.


Only trust secure sites

If you do an online search for an item and discover a great deal, only click on known, trusted vendors. Otherwise, you risk your credit card security, and you may even be vulnerable to getting a nasty computer virus or malware. This can not only affect your computer, but those of your contacts.

If you decide to buy online, only trust reputable sites with a secure SSL checkout. Secure site addresses start with “https” instead of “http” and often have a padlock or unbroken key icon to indicate they are protected.

Enable 2-step Verification

2-Step Verification adds an extra layer of security to your account by preventing anyone from accessing or using your account, even if they know your password. This can come in handy when you shop online with Amazon, for example. Here’s how it works: Typically, you sign in with your password and must enter an additional code that’s sent to your phone.

Naturally, there’s always some risk with online shopping, but these safeguards can help protect you.

Avoid shopping via WiFi

Sure, wireless technology makes having internet access more convenient, but it also makes your information more vulnerable. Many wireless access points, like WiFi hotspots, are unsecured and provide minimal protection against hackers.

Only confirm your order details directly through the retailer’s site

Criminals are crafty, and it doesn’t take much for them to create a convincing email that looks like it’s actually coming from your trusted retailer. Occasionally, these fake emails will tip you off with poor grammar, typos or incorrect account information. But, unless you’re 100% certain the email is legit, don’t click on any links. These links could potentially allow spyware to be installed on your computer, giving hackers access to your private information.

Set up feedback on your accounts

You can choose to be notified by your bank and credit card Company via text, email or phone for a variety of reasons. They’ll often contact you if they notice suspicious credit card activity or when your checking account balance dips below a minimum level. These alerts are helpful in keeping tabs on your debit/credit card activity and can help you know more immediately if someone else is accessing your personal account.

Use digital wallets

More and more people are using this mobile payment technology to make cardless transactions when paying at the register. The advantage is simple: You don’t have to carry around credit cards that you could easily lose. Instead, your mobile device contains encrypted account information that allows you to make seamless transactions at the retailer. Of course, not all stores are equipped to process payments this way, but it is becoming more mainstream thanks to the popular use of smartphones. One potential problem? You forget to bring your phone, or it gets lost or stolen.

Watching out for skimming

Skimmers are small devices that can scan and store credit card data from the magnetic stripe. Dishonest store employees who may have been hired to help during the busy holiday shopping season can scan your card at the register and then swipe it through their own small, handheld skimmers. Once the card is run through the skimmer, the data is recorded, and these thieves can sell your information, at which point counterfeit cards are made. Watch for cashiers who ask to swipe your card for you, turn their backs to you when they swipe your card or temporarily walk away with your card.

Pay with cash

This is really the only way to be sure your identity won’t be stolen. Of course, most people don’t carry around much cash these days, so you may not have enough with you to pay for large ticket items. Also, when you pull out cash from your wallet, it could make you an easy target for opportunistic thieves.

Never leave your purse, wallet or shopping bags unattended

Even in today’s cyber world, old-fashioned stealing is still common. Quick-handed and skilled thieves can grab wallets and be gone in seconds. If you’re not careful, pickpockets can also easily steal items directly from your shopping bags. Stay aware of your surroundings, and never leave your purse, wallet or shopping bags in an unattended cart, on a countertop or bench.

How to tell if someone is stealing your Wi-Fi

While there are countless benefits to living in a hyperconnected world, we all know that spending time online isn’t without risks. In fact, a whopping five and a half million cyber offences are now thought to take place each year.

With Christmas upon us and Boxing Day on the way, many of us will be using our devices to buy bargains online – putting ourselves at potential risk of cyber crime. Here’s how to spot whether your Wi-Fi has been stolen and how to keep your home network safe.


Watch out for slow Wi-Fi

If your network isn’t secure, it’s vulnerable to data theft from neighbours and even passers-by. A tell-tale sign might be very slow streaming of videos or music.

And if your data plan is capped and someone has been using your data for downloading, or other intensive online activities that use large quantities of data, you could find that your monthly bill includes substantial extra charges.

Remember, if anyone has been conducting illegal activities online – such as fraud, phishing or accessing stored information – and they’re using your network, then you’re responsible. Even if you’ve chosen to share a password with a trusted neighbour.

Apps like Wireless Network Watcher, Soft Perfect Wi-Fi Guard, Advanced IP Scanner and Angry IP Scanner can monitor your network for suspicious activity.

You can also check by going online and logging on to your provider’s router administration page – you can do this by opening your browser and typing in the IP address for your router (these vary with each browser, but can be found via a quick Google search).

You’ll be able to see a list of the devices that have been using your network. If you see any unfamiliar names, it’s time to contact your internet provider immediately.

Choosing the right encryption

Most of us are aware that we need to choose a password to protect our home Wi-Fi network. Yet some networks are more secure than others.

WEP (Wireless Equivalent Privacy) is an early form of encryption that typically allows users to choose their own password. Most new routers come with WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access), which is a more complex system that’s far harder to hack into.

Even so, 19% of all Wi-Fi users worldwide are still using WEP encryption for their home network security and 89% of all public Wi-Fi hotspots are unsecured.

So, you need to be aware of whether your information is at risk when you’re using Wi-Fi while out and about. You can check your encryption by going to the Network Settings menu on your device; it should advise you of the security level of all listed networks.

Hacking awareness

If your Wi-Fi is stolen or compromised, you’re at greater risk of being hacked. Sensitive information stored by some of the biggest organisations in the world is frequently compromised by hackers. So how can you protect yourself?

It’s possible to keep your information safe, as long as you’re vigilant. Fake pop-ups and anti-virus messages look increasingly sophisticated and plausible, so one of the best ways to stay safe is to be vigilant about what you click on.

How to spot an email scam

Use our top 10 tips to safeguard yourself from fraudsters using email scams to steal your information and money.

Email scam awareness

Email scams, also called phishing scams, are becoming increasingly common as fraudsters come up with new tricks to try and steal your personal information and bank details.

In some cases, the emails have malicious software attached which can infect your computer, tablet or mobile with a virus.

Use our top 10 tips of technical and general advice to safeguard yourself.

Check the ‘from’ address

It’s always worth checking the address the email comes from for spoofing. Scammers often change its name to make it look more like it is from the company or organisation they are pretending to contact you from.

A scam email usually has a fairly bizarre email address behind what looks like a genuine sender name.

To find out if there’s a fraudster behind what looks like a genuine sender, use your mouse to hover the cursor over or right-click on the sender name and you should see the email address behind it.

Is the greeting impersonal?

Increasingly you will notice that scammers are getting better at sending emails which include our name in the first line of the message. However, not all of them do.

Sometimes scam emails will just say “Hi” and not include your name, other times your email address will be used after “Hi”. This impersonal approach to contacting you is another sign that it’s likely to be a scammer behind the email.

Check contact information and dates

Does the ‘contact us’ information at the bottom of the email link to anything? Is it clickable? Are the websites it links to genuine? If the answer is no, you should be on your guard. To see where a weblink links to without clicking on it, simply hover your mouse cursor over the link. In the bottom left-hand corner of your web browser, the web address where the link goes to will appear.

Are the copyright dates (or any others) up to date? Often scammers will forget this detail. We came across an email scam in March 2017, which said the closing date of the competition being advertised in the email was December 31st, 2016. If you see this level of inconsistency, it’s probably a scam.

Check branding

Scam emails are often pretending to be from big brands, companies, supermarkets, retailers and deal sites or from trusted government departments.

Checking branding and keeping an eye on the quality of branded logos, etc, in the email can strongly indicate if the email is a scam.

Is the branding on the email the same as it is on the company or government website? Does it match the last genuine email you received from them? If the answer is no, be suspicious.

Check if the linked website is legitimate

If you have clicked through to a website or landing page from an email thinking it is genuine, make sure you also double-check the authenticity of the website.

If it’s a big brand or company, simply open a new tab and do a quick search for them. Click on their website and then compare the URL addresses.

Are they the same, similar or totally different? This should give you a good indication as to whether the landing page is a fake or genuine.

If you haven’t yet clicked a link but are being asked to do so you can access an important message on your account, avoid the temptation to act quickly and log in via the email link. Instead, open your browser and log in to your account via the official website. Check if the message is there. If it isn’t, you know the email you received is likely to be from a scammer.


Asking for personal or bank details?

If an email is asking you to update or re-enter your personal or bank details out of the blue, it is likely going to be a scam.

Personal information includes things like your National Insurance number, your credit card number, Pin number, or credit card security code, your mother’s maiden name or any other security answers you may have entered.

Most companies will never ask for personal information to be supplied via email.

Poor spelling, grammar and presentation?

Increasingly scammers are getting better at presenting phishing emails that are more or less free of poor spelling and grammar. But, you should still watch out for these tell-tale signs.

More common is to see a real lack of consistency with the presentation of the email, which may include several different font styles, font sizes and a mismatch of logos.

Trying hard to be ‘official’?

Scammers often try hard to make the email sound official. They will do this in a number of ways, including using the word ‘official’.

You are unlikely to see the messaging in a truly official email shouting about how official it is.

Scam emails may also contain information such as account numbers and IDs designed to trick you into thinking the email is genuine. Check any of these against your records to see if they match.

Trying to rush you?

Fraudsters will try to pressure you with time-sensitive offers, encouraging you to act now or miss out on ‘exclusive’ deals.

Take your time to make all the checks you need. If the message is alerting you to look at something linked to an account you have with the company, organisation or retailer, you should log in separately to your account in a new tab or window

It’s better to miss out on a genuine deal than risk compromising your personal details or money.


Check with real company, brand or department

If you’re still unsure whether a scammer is behind the email you received, get in touch with the brand or company featured in your email directly via social media or their ‘contact us’ page.

Remember also to check the brand or company help and customer services pages. Often big companies are aware of scams circulating and have published advice for customers on what to watch out for.




Why You Should Upgrade to Solid State Drive


If your windows Operating System takes a long time to boot up, that’s likely because it runs on a regular hard drive. This is also the case of most older computers. Do you know that replacing that hard drive with a solid-state drive (SSD) will make the machine run much faster? It’s true, a 5-year-old computer with an SSD boots much faster than even a brand-new rig running on a regular hard drive. The good news is that swapping out the drives is quite easy to do and not too expensive either, thanks to the fact that SSDs are now much more affordable than they were a few years ago,

A standard SSD looks like a traditional 2.5-inch laptop hard drive, but it’s much faster.

It’s time to upgrade to an SSD if you’re still using a mechanical hard drive in your computer/Laptop. An SSD is the single biggest upgrade you can give your computer, and prices have come down dramatically.

Solid State drive are so much faster because they don’t have a spinning magnetic platter and moving head. After upgrading, you’ll be amazed at the performance improvements and wondering why you waited so long.

SSD’s are cheap, you can get 250GB  for £86.99 or 500GB  for £154.99 or even a 1TB only £309.99. Nothing else will give you the speed increase that a new SSD will.

Launching a program, opening a file, and saving something to disk will all happen much, much faster. Click a program, and it can load almost instantly. All those little moments of waiting you don’t notice when you use your computer are adding up. Even just browsing the web will be faster — with your browser’s cache files stored on an SSD, they’ll load almost instantly instead of more slowly from a mechanical drive.

However, there is a way to migrate your Windows 7, 8, or 10 installation to an SSD without reinstalling Windows. It takes a few extra steps, but a lot less time.

You can contact your local IT service provider who would be happy to upgrade your PC or laptop to SSD Drive which should cost no more than £30.00

How to Prevent Ransomware Attack


Ransomware is a type of malware that accesses a victim’s files, locks and encrypts them and then demands the victim to pay a ransom to get them back. Cybercriminals use these attacks to try to get users to click on attachments or links that appear legitimate but actually contain malicious code. Ransomware is like the “digital kidnapping” of valuable data – from personal photos and memories to client information, financial records and intellectual property. Any individual or organization could be a potential ransomware target.


We can all help protect ourselves – and our organizations – against ransomware and other malicious attacks by following these STOP. THINK. CONNECT. tips:

Keep all machines clean: Keep the software on all Internet-connected devices up to date. All critical software, including computer and mobile operating systems, security software and other frequently used programs and apps, should be running the most current versions.

Get two steps ahead: Turn on two-step authentication – also known as two-step verification or multi-factor authentication – on accounts where available. Two-factor authentication can use anything from a text message to your phone to a token to a biometric like your fingerprint to provide enhanced account security.

Back it up: Protect your valuable work, music, photos and other digital information by regularly making an electronic copy and storing it safely.

Make better passwords: A strong password is a sentence that is at least 12 characters long. Focus on positive sentences or phrases that you like to think about and are easy to remember.

When in doubt, throw it out: Links in email, social media posts and online advertising are often how cybercriminals try to steal your personal information. Even if you know the source, if something looks suspicious, delete it.

Plug & scan: USBs and other external devices can be infected by viruses and malware. Use your security software to scan them.