Digital Forensics

Top 10 Digital Tips for a Safe Holiday Season

28 November 2023

Safe Online Shopping

The holiday season is upon us—a time for joy, comfort, friends, and family. But it can also be a stressful time for those traveling or trying to find that perfect gift.

As shopping increases at both brick and mortar stores as well as online retailers, the rise in activity makes shoppers an easy target. The number of criminals looking to make some easy money increases as well, and they are ready and waiting to wreck your holidays.

Travel Safety Tips

There are many things that we take for granted with our digital life that expose us to theft. Just like you wouldn't leave your wallet or credit cards lying around, your digital information must be protected in the same way, whether you are in an airport or rental car. And, with a few precautions, you can reduce the likelihood that you will be one of those easy targets for criminals with these holiday travel safety tips!

Safe Holiday Tips

  1. Shop on Legitimate Websites with Trusted Payment Services

Online shopping offers convenience, but it also presents risks. To ensure your online purchases are secure, make sure you are on a legitimate website. Look for well-known retailers or sellers with a reputable history. When it's time to pay, use trusted payment services like PayPal or Venmo, which offer an added layer of security. These services don't share your credit card details with the seller, reducing the risk of your financial information falling into the wrong hands.

  1. Avoid Clicking on Ads to Access Websites

Online ads can sometimes lead you to fraudulent websites. Cybercriminals often create fake advertisements that look convincing but actually direct you to malicious sites designed to steal your personal information. To stay safe, type the website address directly into your browser or use bookmarks for trusted websites. This way, you bypass potentially deceptive ads and go directly to the source.

  1. Look for Secure Website Addresses (https)

Website security is crucial when sharing sensitive information online. Ensure that the websites you visit start with "https://" rather than just "http://." The "s" indicates that the website uses SSL/TLS encryption to protect data transmission between your browser and the server. Additionally, check if the website complies with Payment Card Industry (PCI) standard guidelines. This indicates that they have implemented robust security measures to safeguard your payment information.

  1. Avoid Public Wi-Fi Networks

Public Wi-Fi networks, such as those at airports and coffee shops, are convenient but can be risky. Cybercriminals can set up rogue Wi-Fi hotspots or create fake login pages on open networks to capture your login credentials. If you must use public Wi-Fi, consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your internet connection and protect your data from potential eavesdroppers.

  1. Inspect Credit Card Readers

Before inserting your credit card into a reader, take a moment to inspect it for signs of tampering. Criminals sometimes install card skimmers or other devices on card readers to steal your card information. Check for any loose or unusual attachments on the reader and ensure that it looks intact. If you notice anything suspicious, notify the retailer immediately and avoid using that particular reader.

  1. Protect Your RFID Credit Cards

Many modern credit and debit cards come equipped with RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) chips for contactless payments. While convenient, these cards can be vulnerable to RFID skimming, where thieves use a scanner to intercept your card's information. To safeguard your cards, consider using an RFID-blocking wallet or sleeve. These products block radio signals, preventing unauthorized access to your card data.

  1. Keep Your Belongings Secure

Holiday shopping often means crowded places, making it easier for thieves to target distracted shoppers. Always keep an eye on your personal belongings, including your purse, wallet, and phone. Lock your phone with a secure PIN, password, or biometric authentication to prevent unauthorized access. Additionally, configure your mobile devices with features like remote wiping and location tracking. These tools can help you protect your data if your device is lost or stolen.

  1. Avoid Using Airport Wi-Fi

Airports are prime locations for cybercriminal activity due to the high number of travelers using public Wi-Fi networks. Avoid connecting to airport Wi-Fi if possible, as these networks can be vulnerable to attacks. If you must connect, use a VPN to encrypt your internet traffic and add an extra layer of security.

  1. Don't Use Airport USB Charging Stations

While it may be tempting to charge your device at airport USB charging stations, exercise caution. These charging stations can pose security risks as they may be compromised by cybercriminals. Instead, bring your own charging block and use an electrical outlet to charge your devices securely. This way, you avoid the potential for data theft through USB connections.

  1. Don't Connect Devices to Rental Cars

Rental cars often come equipped with infotainment systems that allow you to connect your smartphone via USB or Bluetooth. While this may seem convenient, it can expose your personal information to the next renter of the vehicle. The infotainment system can store your GPS data, text messages, call history, and address book. To protect your data, avoid connecting your devices to rental cars or ensure that you wipe all data from the system before returning the vehicle.


By following these tips, you can navigate the holiday season with greater confidence, knowing that you've taken steps to protect your digital and personal information from potential threats. Stay vigilant, stay safe, and enjoy a secure holiday season!


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About The Author
Lars Daniel
Practice Leader
Digital Forensics

Mr. Lars Daniel is the Practice Leader of the Digital Forensics Division. Mr. Daniel has qualified as an expert witness and testified in both state and federal courts, qualifying as a digital forensics expert, computer forensics expert, cell phone forensics expert, video forensics expert, and photo forensics expert. He has testified for both the defense and prosecution in criminal cases and the plaintiff and defense in civil cases.

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