Cyber Monday Alert: Stay Safe While Shopping Online This Holiday Season

"Cyber Monday" - the Monday after Thanksgiving that kick-starts the holiday online shopping season - is near.  And more people than ever will be using this convenient form of shopping.  According to a recent study from MarketLive, 55 percent of surveyed shoppers plan to do their holiday shopping online this year, up from 49 percent last year.  As the number of online shoppers rises, however, so do the threats to their online security.

One rising threat is "SideJacking" - hackers who break into a wireless Internet connection to steal data - for example, credit card numbers on a shopping site. SideJackers frequently target businesses, public hot spots and even residential areas where personal home networks can be discovered and accessed from the street. These threats, plus common phishing scams, malware and viruses, place personal information at risk for identity theft.

"After years of Internet scams, today's online shoppers have become much more savvy - but, unfortunately, so have the bad guys," said Pete Castleton, executive director of corporate marketing for Verizon, one of the nation's largest broadband service providers.  "It's critically important for people shopping online this holiday season to take steps to protect their personal information."

Verizon offers these tips to prevent hackers and other digital criminals from ruining the holidays:

  • Wireless network users should take advantage of the security features built into wireless routers to make it more difficult for hackers to access personal information. Verizon's broadband routers come with WEP security enabled, although customers can switch their router's security to the more advanced WPA or WPA2 (also supported by Verizon routers). 

  • Set up a firewall for the home network. This will make it difficult for hackers to gain access to valuable personal information. 

  • One of the most important steps home computer users can take is install an Internet security package, such as Verizon's Internet Security Suite (VISS), rather than an off-the-shelf program that is limited to one function, such as anti-virus).  VISS features include:

    • Continually monitoring for abnormal computer behavior caused by malicious software, even before updates from traditional virus and spyware protection products are available.

    • An option to disable SSID broadcasting, making a customer's network invisible to anyone who doesn't know the specific network name.  (Most wireless routers broadcast an SSID, a message that the wireless connection is available and that can be seen by any computer user.) 

    • Hides a PC when connected to public hot spots.

    • Blocks access to fraudulent Web sites and protects a computer from phishing attacks via e-mail, instant messaging and other applications.

    • Prevents unwanted access and inspects any unauthorized information leaving a computer.

    • Controls how much information Web sites record about browsing habits.

  • Be wary of opening e-mails with attachments that come from unknown sources. They can contain viruses, spyware, worms or other elements that may be harmful to a user's computer.

  • When engaging in online commerce, look for "https" at the beginning of a web site URL to ensure the Web site is secure. Avoid making purchases on sites that don't have an "https" address.

  • The government provides an outline for anyone who thinks his or her data or identity may have been stolen, explaining steps for recourse.  It is located at http://www.us-cert.gov/cas/tips/ST05-019.html

Verizon's FiOS Internet and High Speed Internet (HSI) services - with download connection speeds ranging from  up to 1 megabit per second (Mbps) to up to 50 Mbps - are available to more than 25 million homes in parts of 24 states and the District of Columbia. FiOS Internet and HSI services also provide a gateway to other valuable Verizon offerings, including fee Wi-Fi connections for qualifying customers, Verizon Internet Security Suite, Verizon Online Backup and Sharing and Premium Technical Support.

For more information about service offerings and availability, visit www.verizon.com or call 1-800-VERIZON (1-800-837-4966).

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), headquartered in New York, is a global leader in delivering broadband and other wireless and wireline communications services to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers.  Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, serving more than 89 million customers nationwide.  Verizon also provides converged communications, information and entertainment services over America's most advanced fiber-optic network, and delivers innovative, seamless business solutions to customers around the world.  A Dow 30 company, Verizon employs a diverse workforce of more than 230,000 and last year generated consolidated revenues of more than $97 billion.  For more information, visit www.verizon.com.