Staying Safe During the Holidays!

How Can I Stay Safe During the Holidays?

Just like Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, the UVA’s cybersecurity education team is here to remind you about the holidays in November! During the festive season, most will be enjoying a much needed vacation, meeting with family and friends, and taking advantage of all the Christmas sales. This creates the perfect opportunity for hackers and cybercriminals to attack! Just like flu season, another outbreak is occuring digitally. According to research, cyberattacks increase substantially due to the holiday season, which is bad news for companies and individuals looking forward to a stress-free end of the year break. You may ask, “How can I stay safe during the holidays?” Fortunately for you, we have the answers for that exact question!

Beware of Shopping Scams

Everyone, no matter how festive they are, shops during the holiday season. Almost everything is on sale, how couldn’t you? Hackers know this and will often send you emails with deals that are too good to be true. This is a classic phishing scam, using holiday sales as the bait and sending you links to their websites. Their websites may look legitimate and professional, but don’t be fooled! Once you enter in your credit card information, it’s game over. One way to detect a phishing scam is to check the url of the website. If you’re unsure, don’t click! Hover over the link to see the url. Oftentimes, the url will have slight differences from the website it’s trying to mimic. Check the address bar for an https:// (not http). You can also use a phishing url checker such as

When you come across a new website or online company when you shop, do your research and look for reviews! A search engine can do wonders in answering any suspicions. Also verify that the company has a legitimate mailing address and support phone number. If you’re still unsure, you can always shop somewhere else. It’s better safe than sorry!

Just in case you should always be keeping an eye for activity on your credit card and banking accounts.

Holiday Cards Too?!

During the festive season, you might get a couple of holiday greeting cards in your email. While most are legitimate, cybercriminals will want to take advantage of this. Be cautious of emails with attached files. Even pictures attached can contain malware! Only open attachments from known senders and make sure to double check the sender’s address. Even then, hackers can get control of the sender’s email, so look for suspicious details such as mispellings and out of character wording. Never click unknown links or open attachments from unknown sources.

More Best Practices For the Holiday Season

While these internet hygiene practices aren’t exclusive to the holiday season, they are just as important. Here are a few cybersecurity tips to keep your information safe while you relax during the break!

  • Keep your software updated! This includes your operating system, antivirus software, and internet browser. Just like flu season and how people are getting their flu shot, updating software serves as a digital flu shot, protecting you from digital viruses.

  • Protect your passwords! While Santa has his lists, hackers have a list of passwords and usernames, a culmination of years of cybersecurity breaches. You can check if your information has been in a data breach here: Don’t be alarmed, hackers can’t do anything if you change your passwords often and having a password manager like LastPass, which the university provides for free, can help. This can make all your passwords different from one another, so even if a hacker gets into one account, they can’t get into all of them! It even remembers passwords for you!

  • Don't ever give your financial information or personal information via email or text. You never know who might be reading!

  • Only use apps from known sources and if you must download, scan it with an antivirus.