Sophos advises online shoppers to use caution this holiday season

Conducting holiday shopping online has rewards and its share of potential security risks

It may be the time for holiday celebrations, but online consumers need to keep security in mind.The day after American Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, is a time when millions of shoppers in the U.S. are expected to line up in front of stores in the early morning hours to take advantage of some of the biggest sales of the season. However, for the last two years, Cyber Monday - the Monday following Black Friday - has become the most popular shopping day for online consumers. The temptation of low shipping costs, discounted merchandise and the elimination of competition between other mall shoppers has made online shopping far more alluring.

A recent poll conducted by IT security and control firm Sophos indicates that 73 percent of consumers plan to shop online this holiday season. That figure is an increase from last year's 71 percent and illustrates the popularity of online shopping. While consumers have taken advantage of bargains available on Cyber Monday, cybercriminals have also honed in on how, when and where consumers are shopping online. Sophos is warning these shoppers to be mindful of the possibility of identity theft during Cyber Monday and offers steps to avoid falling victim.

Survey results

Are you doing any shopping online for the holidays this year?
Yes    73%
No    27% 

Sophos online survey, 230 respondents, November 2007.

"Cybercriminals are becoming craftier and smarter in the ways they exploit consumers to steal their personal information," said Mike Haro, senior security analyst for Sophos. "This holiday season, consumers should be more prepared and aware of the risks, especially as these crimes have been reported quite heavily in the news. Having the right line of defense in place and knowing what signs to look out for will help online shoppers to avoid potential credit card fraud and identity theft."

While consumers are at risk, they may also unknowingly expose their companies network to an attack. A recent study conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of indicates that nearly one out of every three employees will shop online during work hours. This high volume presents the opportunity for cybercriminals to gain access to company networks through an employees work computer. Sophos warns consumers and businesses alike to be mindful of the risks on Cyber Monday and to utilize proper security measures.

Sophos offers the following online shopping security recommendations:

Precautions for consumers

  • Read website privacy policies and procedures to ensure appropriate measures are in place
  • Only buy from reputed sites
  • Do not follow links from unsolicited email
  • Never enter sensitive information from an internet cafe or machine that you do not know to have a fully up-to-date security policy
  • Ensure you have a firewall, patches and anti-virus up to date and running
  • Protect your password

Precautions for online shopping sites

  • Use HTML encryption technology
  • Enlist a firewall
  • Limit access to your server to only those who absolutely need it
  • Check your system and weblogs for suspicious activity regularly, especially when traffic is high

Disclaimer: Please bear in mind that this poll is not scientific and is provided for information purposes only. Sophos makes no guarantees about the accuracy of the results other than that they reflect the choices of the users who participated.

About Sophos

Sophos provides solutions that enable enterprises all over the world to secure and control their IT infrastructure. Sophos's network access control and endpoint solutions simplify security to provide an integrated defence against malware, spyware, intrusions, unwanted applications and policy abuse. Sophos complements these solutions with innovative email and web security products that filter traffic for security threats, spam and policy infringements. With over 20 years of experience, Sophos's reliably engineered security solutions and services protect more than 100 million users in over 140 countries. Recognised for its high level of customer satisfaction and powerful yet easy-to-use solutions, Sophos has received many industry awards, as well as positive reviews and certifications.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US, and Oxford, UK

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