How to protect yourself and your business network

Christmas is coming fast and this year the holiday shopping season has begun even earlier than normal in the face of the ongoing pandemic. In view of the threat posed by COVID-19, many shoppers have moved their gift-hunting online as they avoid crowded stores and retailers are loving it.

According to a recent piece by NBC News, more people shopping online so retailers are finding ways to spread out online orders and make the most of the digital shopping boom. Retailers such as Target, Best Buy, and Walmart offered Black Friday pricing the same days Amazon hosted its Amazon Prime Day on Oct. 13 and Oct. 14.

But this early online shopping could spell trouble for both shoppers and their employer’s networks. Both individuals and businesses should take certain precautions to protect themselves against the risks inherent with online shopping.

Avoid the Rabbit Hole

We all have experienced the frustration of looking for the ideal item online. Searching for that perfect gift can sometimes take us down the rabbit hole where we end up on obscure websites that aren’t secure or even legitimate. Before you know it, the site has your credit card information all to discover later that you were actually victimized by an illicit hacker.

To avoid this issue, the cybersecurity professionals at ORAM Corporate Advisors recommend that you stick to the official, trusted retail sites such as,,, etc. You get the idea.

Look for proper site security. If the site is properly secured, it will show https:// before the web address. This shows they have proper security credentials in place which lowers your risk of ending up with a negative online shopping experience or hack. Simply avoid third-party platforms for your online shopping.

If you’re shopping on a phone app, make sure you are getting the app from a reputable source such as the App Store, Amazon App Store, Google Play, or Galaxy Apps. These companies scan apps for malware prior to publishing them in their store. You don’t want to download an app that turns out to have malicious software or malware attached to it.

Employees Shopping at Work

Whether your employees are shopping online while working in the office or through a work device or business network while on the clock remotely, it can lead to issues for your business. An employee could unwittingly visit a site or click a “shopping link” that could unleash pandemonium on your company ranging from ransomware to viruses and malware.

Talk to your employees about the risks of online shopping, especially on workplace devices and networks. Share the information mentioned above with them so they can shop safer regardless of where and how they do so.

Don’t Get Phished

Beware of text messages as they can become the perfect pond for hackers to commit SMS phishing scams. You may receive a text message promising you a great deal along with a link to click. When you follow the link, it takes you down that aforementioned rabbit hole, enticing you with terrific prices but it’s really just a scam to get your credit card information.

Again, this is that warning not to follow random links. If the link sent to you is from an unknown or untrusted source, don’t click on it. If it’s from someone you know, ask them if they sent it first to ensure they weren’t hacked.

Just Say No- To Email Message Forms

Avoid filling out email message forms asking for personal information at home or at work. These emails could appear to come from friends and/or vendors that you typically communicate with. They may look legitimate, but don’t fall for it. Most likely they are simply a phishing email trying to separate you from your hard-earned money.

If you receive an email from a friend, family member, vendor, or client with such a form (or attachment or link) that you weren’t expecting, call them. Ask if they sent the email and what is in it. They may have had their email hacked and you may be the next target.

Watch Your Cards

Keep a close eye on your credit card statements, personal and business. Watch for any unusual transactions and report them to your credit card company immediately. At the minimum, look at your credit card statements online every couple of weeks to see your transactions.

To make this easier, sign up for transaction alerts with your credit card carriers. You can also download the app for your credit cards so you can keep track of your transactions even if you’re traveling or on the go. You can also ask your credit card company to put a limit on the amount approved for your transactions.

Check Your Security

Normally, we would want to make sure the firewalls are conducting packet inspections (a search for malware) on the email traffic for your business network. This is especially important with so many employees now working remotely, even if they are using their own devices.

You will also want to make sure that your WordPress and company website are up to date with security plugins. Take time to ensure that the communication between your website and credit card carrier is encrypted. This is especially important if your business sells products and/or services online.

If you have further questions about protecting your business network for the holiday shopping season, contact ORAM Corporate Advisors at (617) 933-5060.