Black Friday security warning: Seven top tips to keep you safe from cyber criminals

Planning on shopping online for Black Friday or Cyber Monday? Make sure you aren't falling prey to scammers and crooks with these security tips.

Your email account is a big phishing target for hackers

Black Friday shoppers have been urged to beware of scams as cyber criminals look to take advantage of one of the busiest online shopping periods of the year.

The National Cyber Security Centre -- the cyber security arm of the UK's intelligence agency GCHQ -- has published a series of tips for online shoppers to help stop them falling victim to hackers and other online criminals over the course of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and beyond.

Some of the simple security advice being offered by the NCSC include basic online security hygiene: recommendations to keep up-do-date with the latest software patches and security updates, and to secure important accounts with strong passwords and two-factor authentication -- a password manager is also recommended.

When it comes to making online purchases, consumers are being urged to 'shop smart' and not to click on links in emails and text messages if a deal seems too good to be true. It could be that this is a phishing email, designed to outright steal usernames, passwords and payment details -- or the products on offer by the criminal seller could be cheap bootlegs.

To counter these threats, users are urged to shop on sites they trust and visit websites manually by entering the address into their web browser.

The NCSC has also warned Black Friday shoppers to avoid over-sharing information online and, when possible, to only fill in the mandatory details marked with an asterix on forms when making a purchase. Users are also advised to avoid creating new accounts, if at all possible, unless they plan on using a site a lot in the future.

Consumers are also told to keep an eye on their bank and credit card systems in order to remain vigilant against any unexpected payments -- and if they fear they have been a victim of fraud, the NCSC's advice is 'don't panic' and to contact Action Fraud.

Finally, in order to ensure that attackers can't break into the network via insecure IoT devices, users are told to secure their smart gadgets -- and to consult the government's recently released consumer guidelines for smart devices.

SEE: What is phishing? Everything you need to know to protect yourself from scam emails and more

In addition to offering the advice on cyber security, the NCSC has also recommended that the people who see it to have a 'cyber chat' with their family and friends in order to increase awareness of Black Friday scams and how to avoid them.

"Staying safe online doesn't require deep technical knowledge," said Dr. Ian Levy, NCSC technical director

"It's vital that knowledge is shared, and that's why we're encouraging everybody to have a cyber chat. 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."

Consumers are also encouraged to follow the cyber security advice in the run up to Christmas and beyond.

"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," said James Martin, crime and security advisor to the British Retail Consortium.

NCSC's seven security tips are:

  • Stay up to date -- Make sure you install the latest software and app updates
  • Use strong passwords
  • Turn on two-factor authentication
  • Use a password manager
  • Take care with links in emails and texts
  • Don't give away too much information
  • When things don't feel right, take a note of the website address, report the details to Action Fraud, and contact your bank to seek advice