As we gear up to feast with family and friends this Thanksgiving, we also get our wallets ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have practically become holidays themselves, as each year they immediately shift our attention from turkey and pumpkin pie to holiday shopping. Let’s take a look at these two holidays, and how their popularity can impact users’ online security.
The Origins of the Holiday Shopping Phenomenon
You might be surprised to find out that the term “Black Friday” was first associated with a financial crisis, not sales shopping. According to The Telegraph, the U.S. gold market crashed on Friday, September 24, 1869, leaving Wall Street bankrupt. It wasn’t until the 1950s that Black Friday was used in association with holiday shopping when large crowds of tourists and shoppers flocked to Philadelphia for a big football game. Because of all the chaos, traffic jams, and shoplifting opportunities that arose, police officers were unable to take the day off, coining it Black Friday. It wasn’t until over 50 years later that Cyber Monday came to fruition when Shop.org coined the term as a way for online retailers to participate in the Black Friday shopping frenzy.
Growth Over the Years
Since the origination of these two massive shopping holidays, both have seen incredible growth. Global interest in Black Friday has risen year-over-year, with 117% average growth across the last five years. According to Forbes, last year’s Black Friday brought in $6.2 billion in online sales alone, while Cyber Monday brought in a record $7.9 billion.
While foot traffic seemed to decrease at brick-and-mortar stores during Cyber Week 2018, more shoppers turned their attention to the internet to participate in holiday bargain hunting. Throughout this week, sales derived from desktop devices came in at 47%, while mobile purchases made up 45% of revenue and tablet purchases made up 8% of revenue.
So, what does this mean for Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping this holiday season? Adobe Analytics projects that Thanksgiving and Black Friday will bring in $12.3 billion in online sales and Cyber Monday will bring in $9.48 billion. If one thing’s for sure, this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are shaping up to be the biggest ones yet for shoppers looking to snag some seasonal bargains. However, the uptick in online shopping activity provides cybercriminals with the perfect opportunity to wreak havoc on users’ holiday fun.
Holiday Bargain or Shopping Scam?
Inherently, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are pretty similar, with the main difference being where users choose to shop. While Black Friday sees a mix of online and in-store shoppers, most consumers will participate in Cyber Monday sales from their mobile phones or desktops at work. Plus, with mobile Cyber Week sales increasing year over year, it’s clear that users are gravitating towards the convenience of shopping on the go. However, the increase in mobile online shopping also creates an opportunity for cybercriminals to exploit. The latest McAfee Mobile Threat Report revealed a huge increase in device backdoors, fake apps, and banking trojans. With more and more users turning to their smartphones this holiday shopping season, they are in turn potentially subject to a wide variety of mobile cyberattacks.
Another threat to users’ holiday shopping sprees? Rushed purchases. Thanks to a later Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday falls on December 2nd, leaving users with one less shopping week between Turkey Day and Christmas. Because of this time crunch, many users are feeling pressured to get their holiday shopping done in time and might forego some basic cybersecurity practices to speed up the online shopping process. This includes not checking online retailer authenticity, falling for fake Black Friday deals, and hastily giving up more personal information than necessary, all in the interest of jumping on a sale before it’s too late.
How to Stay Secure This Holiday Season
In the blur of the holiday shopping frenzy, how can you help protect your personal information online? Before whipping out your credit card this Black Friday and Cyber Monday, check out these cybersecurity tips to ensure your holiday shopping spree goes off without a hitch:
- Look for the lock icon. Secure websites will start with “https,” not just “http.” Double-check that you see the padlock icon right next to the web address in your browser. If you don’t, it’s best to avoid making purchases on that website.
- If you can help it, shop on your desktop. Although shopping on a smartphone allows you to make purchases on the go, this opens you up to threats like mobile malware and fake shopping apps. Additionally, URLs are often shortened on mobile devices, making it easier for scammers to trick you with clone websites.
- Ask the critics. Cybercriminals will often create fake websites to try and exploit users looking to get in on the Black Friday and Cyber Monday action. If you’re unsure about a product or retailer, read lots of reviews from trusted websites to help see if it’s legitimate.
- Be on the lookout for suspicious websites. Misspellings and grammatical errors are often a sign that it’s a rip off of a legitimate site. If the site’s content looks a little rough around the edges, this is probably a sign that it was created by a cybercriminal.
- Don’t be too optimistic. Beware of bogus Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals with fake “free” offers. If you spot an ad online that seems too good to be true, chances are it probably is.
- Use a comprehensive security solution. Using a solution like McAfee LiveSafe can help your holiday shopping spree go smoothly by providing safe web browsing, virus protection, and more. Check out our own special Cyber Week Offer here.