“Black”/”Cyber” Tips (a.k.a. How the hrbrgrinch ruined Christmas shopping)

NOTE: This is mainly for those of us in the Colonies, but some tips apply globally.

Black Friday / Cyber Monday / Cyber November / Holiday ?hopping is upon us. You’re going to buy stuff. You’re going to use digital transactions to do so. Here are some tips in a semi-coherent order:

  • Sign up for a “reputable” credit card (is there such a thing? FinServs are pretty evil) with a low interest rate/cash back, multi-factor authentication on their web/app and a limit on total credit and a per-transaction limit. This card is just for shopping. Pay with petrol and groceries with something else.
  • Assign that to your PayPal, Amazon, Apple Pay, et al accounts and keep that as your only physical & digital card for your shopping sprees until the season ends.
  • Setup multi-factor auth on PayPal, Amazon, Apple Pay and anywhere else you shop. Don’t shop where you can’t do this.
  • Use Amazon or a site that accepts PayPal, Apple Pay, or Amazon payments. Yes, all those orgs are evil. But they do a better job than most when it comes to account security.
  • Use Quantum Firefox or the latest Chrome Betas to shop online. Nothing else. Check for updates daily & apply when they are out.
  • Double-check URLs when shopping. Make sure you’re on the site you want to be on. Let’s Encrypt made it super easy for attackers to pwn you this season. You can afford an extra 5 minutes since that’ll save you years battling identity theft or account bankruptcy.
  • Type all URLs into Google’s safety net — https://transparencyreport.google.com/safe-browsing/search — if at all possible before even considering trusting them.
  • Don’t use any storefront that uses a Let’s Encrypt certificate. Any.
  • Never let sites store your credit card or bank info.
  • Never shop on a site that has any errors associated with their SSL/TLS certificates. Let’s Encrypt killed the integrity of the lock icon and well-resourced adversaries can thwart the encryption but the opportunistic attackers likely to try to pwn you are going to be stopped
  • Avoid shopping with Apps. App developers are generally daft and have wretched security practices baked into their apps.
  • Use “Private Browsing” mode to shop if at all possible and start new browser sessions per-site. Your shopping habits and purchase info is as or even more valuable than your card digits, esp to trackers.
  • Use Ublock Origin or other reputable ad-blockers and tracking blockers to prevent orgs from tracking you as you shop. A good hosts file wouldn’t hurt, either.
  • Use Quad9 as your DNS provider starting now.
  • Never shop online from public Wi-Fi.
  • Don’t shop online from your company’s network (even the “guest” network). They track you. They all do or at least send data (whether they know it or not) to security appliance and “cloud” services that will use it against you or to profit off of you.
  • Absolutely do not use a store’s Wi-Fi to shop.
  • If using Amazon, avoid third-party sellers if at all possible. Scammers abound.
  • Never use social networks to share what you just purchased.
  • Never “SQUEEE” on social media that any shipments are “arriving today” and you’re “so excited!”.
  • Don’t use that daft, new Amazon video-delivery-bluetooth-alexa lock thing. Ever.
  • If you can afford it, use an in-home (not cloud-based) security camera pointed at the place where deliveries come and review the footage daily if you are expecting deliveries.
  • In-person/brick-and-mortar shopping should be done at chip+pin establishments or use cash at all others.
  • Review your day’s purchases online at the end of the day or the next morning.
  • Report all issues immediately to authorities then the establishments.

Why this particular slice of advice?

The U.S. moved to chip & signature in October of 2016. This has forced attackers to find different, creative ways to get your credit card info. Yes, there were scads of breaches this year, but a good chunk of digital crime is plain ‘ol theft. Web sites make great targets. Public Wi-Fi makes a great target. You need to protect yourself since no store, org, bank, politician or authority really cares that your identity was stolen. If they did, we wouldn’t be in the breach mess we’re in now.

Attackers know you’re in deep “breach fatigue” and figure you’re all in a “Meh. Nothing matters” mood. Don’t be pwnd! A wrong move could put you in identity theft limbo for years.

The Identity Theft Resource Center — http://www.idtheftcenter.org/ — is a great resource and can definitely help you in the right direction if you don’t follow the above advice and run into issues.

?tay ?afe thi? ?hopping ?sea?on!

Cover image from Data-Driven Security
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