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Tips for Safe Online Shopping This Holiday Season

Shopping Online

It’s Cyber Monday, the largest online shopping day of the year, and if your inbox looks anything like ours, its filled with messages about online deals and sales.  This year, retailers are anticipating more than $2 billion dollars in online transactions with an ever-increasing amount of those sales taking place from mobile devices.  Each one of these transactions represents an opportunity for hackers.  Today and everyday, the experts in the Auburn Cyber Research Center and in the Open Source Intelligence Lab are working to keep the cyber marketplace secure.  To learn more about their efforts, visit: www.auburn.edu/cyber.

In the meantime, to help keep you safe during the online shopping season, the National Cyber Security Alliance has assembled some great tips through their StaySafeOnline initiative, and this morning seemed like a great time to pass them along:

Before you start your holiday shopping, remember to STOP. THINK. CONNECT.: Make sure security measures are in place, understand the consequences of your actions and behaviors and enjoy the benefits of the Internet.

Keep a Clean Machine: All the devices you use for shopping ‐ including smartphones and tablets ‐ should have up‐to‐date software including security software, operating systems, programs and apps.

When in Doubt, Throw it Out: Links in email, tweets, posts, and online advertising are often the way cybercriminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or if appropriate, mark as junk email.

Think Before you Act: Be wary of communications that offer amazing deals that sound too good to be true, implore you to act immediately ‐ including those about a problem with an order or payment or ask you to view the website via a provided link.

Get Savvy about Wi‐Fi Hotspots: Don’t share personal or financial information over an unsecured network (a connection that doesn’t require a password for access). Using the direct web access on your phone (via a 3G/4G connection) is safer than an unsecured wireless network when on your mobile device.

Make Sure the Site is Legitimate: This includes a closed padlock on your web browser’s address bar or a URL address that begins with shttp or https. This indicates that the purchase is encrypted or secured. For new sites, check online reviews.

Protect your Personal Information: Be alert to the kinds of information being collected to complete the transaction. Make sure the information requested is only that needed to complete the transaction. Only fill out required fields on checkout forms. Check the website’s privacy policy. Make sure you understand how your information will be stored and used.

Use Safe Payment Options: Credit cards are generally the safest option because they allow buyers to seek a credit from the issuer if the product isn’t delivered or isn’t what was ordered. Credit cards may have a limit on the monetary amount you will be responsible for paying. Never send cash through the mail or use a money‐wiring service.

Keep a Paper Trail: Save records of your online transactions, including the product description, price, online receipt, terms of the sale, and copies of email exchanges with the seller. Read your credit card statements as soon as you get them to make sure there aren’t any unauthorized charges. If there is a discrepancy, call your bank and report it immediately.

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Auburn University: Working to Secure the Cyber Domain

Auburn University is one of a handful of institutions in the United States that has been designated by the National Security Agency as a Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations, Cyber Defense and Information Assurance. This unique three-fold designation allows the Auburn University Cyber Initiative to engage at the highest levels with national agencies and industries working in the cyber domain.

On October 24, 2014, Auburn University hosted a world affairs forum where some of the security challenges related to the cyber domain were discussed. Panelists included Admiral Michael S. Rogers, ’81, Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and Director of the National Security Agency and Senator Jeff Sessions, United States Senator from Alabama, Senior Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The panel was moderated by Lt. General Ronald L. Burgess (Ret.), Senior Counsel for National Security Programs, Cyber Programs and Military Affairs at Auburn University.

Topics included the balance of diplomacy and military force in a global crisis; military restructuring and budget constraints; the roles of the National Security Agency and the U.S. Cyber Command; the ISIS threat; and foreign policy in the Middle East. Check out an excerpt here:

http://youtu.be/V6Lk4u1Rnwo?list=UU5BE7kfbJPu9-AnZR9G4FKA