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Black Friday and Cyber Monday might be long gone, but that doesn’t mean your holiday shopping is over and done with.

In fact, if you’re like a large majority of the population, then your shopping won’t be done until December 24th.

Sad but true.

However, holiday shopping isn’t what it used to be. People are exchanging physical shopping bags for online shopping carts — and in the process, saving time, reducing hassle, and potentially avoiding uncomfortable encounters with deal-hungry shoppers.

While online shopping is a luxury most of us appreciate, it doesn’t come free of risks. So as you continue your holiday shopping, here are six extra important online shopping tips to keep in mind.

Update, update, update

When you’re running around inside the internet, hackers and malware are lurking in dark corners. They’re awaiting that golden opportunity to attack when you least expect it.

If your software, browser, and operating system are out-of-date, this golden opportunity will suddenly transform into a neon-flashing, glitter-infused, golden opportunity.

You see, out-of-date components create vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities create holes. And hackers and malware use these holes to steal your data and wreak havoc on your devices.

In other words, don’t postpone updates and keep all of your devices up-to-date.

Do you even layer?

Let’s say a person buys a new laptop. Typically, that laptop will come with a free trial of some random security solution. But after a few weeks, that security solution will expire, and the person will be asked over and over again to purchase the extended version of the software.

However, if that person is anything like the general population of internet users, he or she will repeatedly click the “not now” button.

Sound familiar?

This creates a major problem. The longer you do this, the longer your computer or device goes unprotected. And that’s a recipe for nothing good.

You need your devices to be protected with some form of a layered, online security solution. If they aren’t, online risks will become considerably tougher for you to avoid.

In some cases, you can find quality protection for your personal devices for free (check out Sophos Home).

Even Wi-Fi has an evil twin.

That’s right. Even Wi-Fi has an evil twin. And if you aren’t careful, this particular evil twin can snatch your data, steal your identity, and see everything you type, click, or download.

In this instance, you need to watch what Wi-Fi connection you’re attaching your device to. Certain cybercriminals have the ability to set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots that can do some rather nasty things to the users it tricks. So make sure the hotspot enables a credible connection with a reputable company or person.

And no matter what you do … do NOT access private or sensitive information over a public Wi-Fi connection. (This means you should probably avoid purchasing items with credit cards when you’re out and about.)

Passwords matter.

Passwords will always serve as your first line of defense. Even if a hacker snatches all the encrypted passwords from an online company (like say, Amazon), a good password can help get you through the chaos.

The longer and more strategic your password is, the less of a chance a hacker will have of decrypting whatever that password is.

Consider passwords that are longer than eight letters, contain numbers and characters, and are NOT found in a dictionary.  

Look for the lock.

When you’re hunting down gifts on never-before-heard-of websites, this probably isn’t such a great idea. You should save the majority of your online shopping for reputable websites that provide a high degree of security.

As a quick (and very good) tip, always look for the lock. This can be found in the search bar at the top left of your browser (next to the web address). There should be a lock icon present, and in some cases, the word “secure” will be there, too.

We don’t believe in all-access passes.

Even if you trust your sister’s boyfriend’s best friend, it might not be such a good idea to let them finish all their holiday shopping on your device. You never know what websites they’re going to visit, what random links they’re going to click on, and what connections they’re going to use.

Saying no to your sister’s boyfriend’s best friend won’t be the end of the world for you. In this case, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Limit access and you’ll be safer as a result.

If you’d like more online security tips, check out 10 online habits that hackers and malware love.

Rebecca Moore

Sales and Marketing Specialist at Stronghold Data