The holiday shopping season is here and whether you're part of the hustle and bustle or filling your cart from the comfort of your home, the information and tips below can help you make it a safe shopping season!

Start with a Clean Machine - Make sure all of your web-connected devices and applications are up to date with the most current software versions and free from malware and other infections.

Lock down your Login - usernames and passwords are no longer enough to protect your key accounts like email, banking and social media. Enable the strongest authentication available to fortify your accounts, such as bio-metrics, security keys or unique one time codes.

Watch out for Counterfeit Apps - There has been a recent surge of counterfeit apps found on both the Google Play and Apple App stores.  For a safe shopping experience, downloading the app directly from the retailer's website may be your safest bet.  As always, be sure the URL of the site you are visiting begins with "https:" instead of "http" and look for the padlock icon.

Get savvy about WiFi Hotspots - Wireless kiosks are popping up everywhere.  But before you connect, understand the dangers of untrusted networks.  Avoid banking transactions and logging onto your key accounts when out and about.  Adjust your phone's security settings to limit who can access your phone and what information is shared.

Be wary of emails requesting information - Legitimate businesses will not solicit purchase or account information. Never provide sensitive information through email. If you receive an unsolicited email from a business, directly log on to the authentic website by typing the address, do not click the link.

Do business with reputable vendors - Malicious websites take great strides to look legitimate (and often succeed).  Before making a purchase at a new store, check reviews and verify the website is legitimate prior to supplying any personal or payment information.

Find and Turn Off Leaky Apps -  Recently, its been reveled that as many as half of popular shopping apps collect user data without explicit consent.  Many privacy and sharing settings are turned on by default, check within the app settings to limit what information is collected and shared and to control access permissions.

Discounts, coupons and free offers for downloading apps can be tempting, but keep in mind that if an offer is too good to be true, it probably is (and if it's free, you are the product). For more information on safe shopping this holiday season visit the Cyber Safe Holiday Shopping Resource provided by the National Cyber Security Alliance and Stop.Think.Connect.

We will be taking a close look at privacy policies, terms & conditions and how you can protect your privacy in our upcoming blog series, so until then - shop safe and check back soon!