RealTime IT News

SideJackers Gear Up for Online Shopping Season

SideJackers, the hackers who hang out near popular Wi-Fi hotspots hoping to intercept user IDs and passwords, are expected to come out in record numbers this holiday shopping season, forcing wireless providers and their customers to step up their security efforts.

Verizon on Tuesday issued what it's calling a "Cyber Monday Alert," a warning and an accompanying list of tips for online shoppers to help safeguard their personal data while clicking away at virtual stores on the first Monday after Thanksgiving.

According to a recent survey by MarketLive, 55 percent of people are planning to do their primary shopping online this year, up from about 49 percent in 2008. And Forrester Research is predicting online shoppers will spend in excess of $44.7 billion between now and the end of December.

The threat of sidejacking has Verizon and other wireless service providers initiating awareness and security campaigns to highlight this growing risk to unsuspecting holiday shoppers.

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

Verizon is offering several tips to prevent hackers and other digital thieves from destroying the holidays.

Wireless network users should take advantage of the security features built into wireless routers -- particularly WEP, WPA and WPA2 technologies -- to make it more difficult for hackers to access personal information. Verizon's broadband routers come with WEP.

It's also a good idea to set up a firewall for the home network to make it difficult or hackers to gain access to valuable personal information, Verizon noted.

The firm also recommends users install an Internet security package from their wireless provider (Verizon's is called Verizon Internet Security Suite), rather than an off-the-shelf program that is limited to just antivirus or anti-spyware protection.

Additionally, Verizon stressed the importance of staying vigilant in identifying unusual pop-ups or other applications running on a user's primary shopping device.

Is is also recommended that users disable SSID broadcasting so that the network is invisible to anyone who doesn't know the specific network name they're shopping on.

It's also a good idea to hide or conceal your PC as much as possible when connected at public Wi-Fi locations, and to be wary of any unsolicited e-mails or attachments.

The rise in popularity of shopping-related social networking sites and discussion boards should also be monitored to ensure URLs and other data exchanged between reviewers and potentially customers isn't a come-on for malware and other malicious online activity.