GCHQ Warns Brits Of Black Friday Cybercrime

British consumers have been issued advice on ways to protect themselves online over the Black Friday sales period.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), part of the GCHQ intelligence service, issued the advice on how shoppers can avoid the risk of “malicious” online threats.

It comes after Amazon earlier this week was caught up in a data lapse when it warned some customers that their names and email addresses had been leaked on its website, due to a “technical error.

Top tips

The NCSC “top tips” to stay safe online during Black Friday included a call for Britons to have a ‘national cyber chat’ on Black Friday, by engaging with mini-podcasts featuring the NCSC’s Technical Director and experts from Microsoft and the British Retail Consortium.

And on Black Friday, the NCSC will also be kicking off “the UK’s biggest cyber chat on Twitter.”

The centre said that online shopping for bargain deals has increased on Black Friday and people looking to swap the high street for the Internet superhighway could be targeted by bad actors.

It pointed out that Black Friday is a key date in the retail calendar.

Last year, sales in the Black Friday week were 40 percent higher than in any of the other 3 weeks of November, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Estimates have suggested that across ‘Cyber Weekend 2018’ tech-savvy Brits could spend more than £10,000 per second online, totalling £3.5 billion.

“We know that cyber security can seem like a daunting subject, but sharing knowledge today will protect your loved ones tomorrow,” said Dr Ian Levy, the NCSC’s Technical Director. “Staying safe online doesn’t require deep technical knowledge, and we want the whole country to know that the NCSC speaks the same language as them.”

“It’s vital that knowledge is shared, and that’s why we’re encouraging everybody to have a cyber chat,” said Dr Levy. “With so many of the UK shopping online, we want to see these tips shared from classrooms and scout groups to family dinner tables and old people’s homes.”

To help protect people, the NCSC has published seven “top tips” to stay safe before, during and after making an online purchase.

These include always keeping devices fully patched with the latest updates; utilising strong passwords; turning on two-factor authentication where possible; using a password manager; being especially careful of links in emails and texts; not giving away too much information; and trusting your gut when something doesn’t feel right.

Expert advice

“Cyber security is at the heart of our work,” said James Martin, Crime and Security Advisor, British Retail Consortium. “With more and more shoppers looking to get the best deals online, retailers continue to invest significantly in developing the right tools and expertise to protect against cyber-threats.”

“We encourage consumers to be careful and buy through trusted websites, such as those of British Retail Consortium members, to ensure that their Black Friday deal doesn’t turn into a post-Christmas headache,” he said.

Meanwhile Dave Kennerley, director of Threat Research at Webroot warned of the real online dangers during Black Friday.

“This time of year is notorious for cyberattacks due to the spike in shopping site traffic towards the end of November,” said Kennerley. “When we examined data from 2017, we found a 58 percent increase in traffic on Cyber Monday compared to the average for the entirety of November.”

“Concurrently, between November 19th and December 5th, there was an average of 203 percent more phishing sites detected per day compared to 30 days prior, with a notable peak around November 27th,” said Kennerley.

“We can expect that phishing will still be rampant throughout the 2018 festive period and both businesses and consumers must be aware that the data they have is valuable to bad actors and they will be targeted.” he warned. “By improving education around phishing attacks, security experts can act collaboratively with end users to improve vigilance and boost defences. In this way, sensitive data can be protected from falling into the wrong hands.”

Last month the NCSC revealed that it helped the UK fend off at least ten cyber attacks a week, most of which came from state-sponsored hackers employed by hostile nation states.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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