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Top 5 cybercrime safety tips ahead of White Friday

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By Heino Gevers, Customer experience manager at Mimecast Middle East and Africa

Middle Eastern shoppers are growing more comfortable with the idea of online shopping. But is our level of education about the associated risks keeping pace? Considering the rising trends of local data breaches and the number of consumers falling victim to cybercrime, it seems not.

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News reports and statements by police departments and high-level officials seems to confirm that cybercrime in the GCC is escalating. According to a PwC report, 85 percent of Middle East respondents have suffered an incident related to cybercrime compared to the global average of 79 percent. Additionally, 18 percent of respondents have experienced more than 5000 attacks compared to the global average of 9 percent – which is higher than any other region. Meanwhile, IBM reported that the average cost of a data breach in Saudi Arabia and the UAE was $4.94 million, a 6.9 percent increase since 2016.

The good news is that savvy shoppers only have to follow a few simple rules, and maintain a healthy level of suspicion when making purchases.

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Here are a few tips for staying out of the red this Black Friday and for the upcoming holiday season:

Tip 1: Think before you share

Cyberattacks are not just random anymore. They are well-researched and usually architected using information you share online. Personal details like where you work, job title, who your friends are and what you are doing, are all over social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. Hackers use these sites to gather intel on unsuspecting victims – this is called Social Engineering.

Tip 2: Keep your eyes peeled for dodgy URLs

Cybercriminals are getting more advanced in their efforts to trick you into entering your financial details on unsecured websites, or convincing you to click on an innocent-looking link that downloads malicious software onto your device. Even if you receive a branded email, from what looks like a legitimate retailer with their logos

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and fonts, it could be a scam. Always type a retailer’s address into your browser to avoid being redirected to a fake site. And be on the lookout for the all-important https:// (as opposed to http://). The “s” stands for secure – so that one little letter is crucial to your online safety.

Tip 3: Make use of alternative (and safer) payment methods

Every time you enter your credit or debit card details into an online form is a chance for those details to be intercepted by cybercriminals. Set up a dedicated online shopping account with strict credit and overdraft limits, with only enough money to buy what you need. Alternatively use the loyalty points you’ve been collecting all year.

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Tip 4: If it seems suspicious, it probably is

Keep track of retailers you’re expecting a shipment from. If you receive an email that contains tracking information from a courier service or retailer you haven’t used, do not click on the tracking URL. This is a malicious link disguised as something familiar. The same goes for attachments – these could contain malicious code. Again, rather type the courier service website in manually to avoid being sent to a fake site.

Tip 5: If you think you’ve fallen victim to cybercrime – act fast

Report it to the police

There are many cybercrime cases that go unreported every year. These reports aid in investigations and can help shut down these cybercriminals and their syndicate organisations for good.

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Report it to your bank

Get in touch with your bank as soon as you suspect something irregular is going on and have your card cancelled immediately. Depending on the circumstances, they may even be able to reverse the fraudulent charge and get your cash back.

Report it to the business you thought you were buying from

They have a vested interest in knowing they are being impersonated online, and are often better resourced in the hunt to track the perpetrators down. They are also familiar with the processes followed in getting suspicious sites blacklisted or shut down.

Do not negotiate

If you find yourself locked out of your PC due to ransomware, it’s likely the attackers will ask you to pay a ransom to give you back control. And they often ask for payment in untraceable currencies like Bitcoin. But once you’ve been identified as a soft target, they’ll probably be back for more.

Have a secure archiving solution in place that will ensure you can recover your lost information easily, without paying a penny.