How to Protect Yourself from Cyber Criminals This Holiday Season

WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) -- It is Cyber Monday, which means if you're like many Americans, you'll be shopping online today. But doing so could make you a target of cybercriminals. Attacks against consumers will rise 40 percent today, which is why it's important to keep your personal information protected.

"From a cybercriminal's perspective, holiday shopping is a great avenue of attack," said Ibrahim (Abe) Baggili, Ph.D., founder of the Cyber Forensics Lab at the University of New Haven's Tagliatela College of Engineering. "They know people are buying online, spending money online, buying gifts and all sorts of things."

Baggili says one of the easiest ways to protect yourself online is by hovering before you click.

"There are malicious links out there," he explained. "What you see on the screen might not be the link you're actually clicking on so you really need to take a closer look at the link itself."

Shop only at reputable sites, and make sure the website you're shopping on is secure by looking for a lock icon in the address bar. Also, when making purchases, reach for your credit card versus a debit card.

"Because credit cards have a lot of protection mechanisms," Baggili explained.

If you're out and about, avoid public Wi-Fi.

"Creating Wi-Fi hotspots is very easy by criminals," Baggili said. "So a lot of people, maybe you go to Starbucks and they connect to a Starbucks access point but it's really not a Starbucks access point it's some other access point this cybercriminal has put up."

Your best bet is to use your cellular data. Another tip is to turn off Bluetooth when it's not in use.

"If you have a Bluetooth enabled device and I know how to attack Bluetooth using various different attack mechanisms, I might be able to have your device connect to my device," Baggili explained.

Make sure your anti-virus software is up to date, and regularly back up your computer.

"You can back it up at home if you really wanted to, if you're tech savvy and have that ability, or you can use cloud enabled services, something like DropBox or Google Drive," Baggili said.

It's also extremely important to check your credit score, especially this time of year. Also, log on to your credit card daily to make sure there are no fraudulent charges.

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