December 22, 2023

The holiday season is one of the busiest times of year for most online retailers—and for would-be scammers. While millions of people are searching for that perfect gift, hackers and online thieves will be looking for security vulnerabilities. Here’s how to shop smart, and safe, this season.

Around the world, people are expected to spend more than $900 billion in online purchases this holiday season. To make sure none of it ends up in the hands of ne’er-do-wells, Northeastern computer science professor Engin Kirda advises shoppers to stay vigilant.

“We’re seeing more and more that people’s phones are being targeted, not just their email,” says Kirda, whose research includes malware analysis and detection. Cyber-attacks are getting more sophisticated and “harder to detect,” he adds.

Engin Kirda is a professor of computer science in the Khoury College of Computer Sciences at Northeastern. Photo by Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University

Be on the lookout for unexpected shipping notifications, Kirda says. Scammers are betting on an increase in holiday shopping to take advantage of people with fake delivery updates.

You might receive a text message from someone purporting to be an online retailer, asking for more information about a recent purchase or delivery. Any other time of year, it would be easier to spot a fake—if you haven’t purchased anything from Amazon recently, for example, a text about your package wouldn’t make any sense.

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