Individuals and retailers aren’t the only ones getting ready for the biggest shopping season of the year. The holiday shopping season is also a big event for cybercriminals. Every holiday season, security researchers document spikes in online criminal activity, ranging from phishing scams, fake shopping sites, and credit card skimming software, to malicious and compromised applications being posted in online app stores.
Here are a few tips to help you have a happy – and secure – holiday shopping season.
- Start by making sure your devices, software, browsers, and applications have all been patched and updated to the latest versions.
- Make sure that your devices have security tools installed, such as antivirus and VPN, and that you know how to use them.
- Get your passwords under control.
- Update older passwords with newer ones that are harder to guess but easier to remember.
- Don’t use the same password for different accounts. If needed, use a password vault that keeps track of all of your passwords for you.
- Shop with your credit card and not your debit card. Many credit cards include fraud protection. They can also be turned off without freezing your other resources. Also, make sure that your credit card provider will alert you to suspicious card activity.
Go the extra mile
- Every browser supports secure transactions using SSL encryption. But to be safe, make sure your connection is secure before you push the “purchase” button. You can do this by looking at the URL bar of your browser and making sure that the address starts with https:// rather than http://.
- When possible, shop using a VPN (virtual private network) connection. That way, even if your communications are intercepted, they will be useless to cybercriminals because your data is encrypted. If you are going to be online in public places frequently, there are a number of low cost/no cost VPN services that will ensure that your connection is always protected.
- For more technical users, consider setting up a VM on your computer just for shopping. That way, if you happen to get infected it will be isolated to the VM and criminals should not be able to access other sensitive data on your device.
- You can also further secure access to sites by setting multi-factor authentication. Many online sites such as banks support two-factor authentication to doubly secure your financial data.
- Everyone has heard that you shouldn’t click on links in an email or on a web site unless you know they are safe. However, about 1/3 of users do it anyway. One way to conquer your curiosity is to know what that link leads to.
- Hover your mouse over a link and you should be able to see the URL either as a pop-up or at the bottom of your email or browser page.
- Look at it carefully before you click it. Does it look normal? Is the name too long or does it contain lots of hyphens or numbers?
- Look up the URL before you click on it. You can do this by copying the URL of the site you are visiting and drop it into a domain search engine like who.is. This will provide a variety of information, such as when the site was first created, where they are physically located, and information about the owner.
- Start by looking at the website design. Most cybercriminals do not have the time or resources to make an exact duplicate of the site they are spoofing, or to develop their own fake shopping site. A little looking around can go a long way to helping you decide if you should stay or go.
- Next, read the text on the website. Bad grammar, unclear descriptions, and misspelled words are all giveaways that the site may not be legitimate.
- Remember that if it’s too good to be true, it usually is. Of course, there are sometimes really great deals for things on the internet. But in general, unusually low prices and high availability of hard-to-find items are red flags for scams and vendors selling knock-offs.
- Finally, make sure the checkout system accepts major credit cards. Avoid sites that require direct payments from your bank, wire transfers, or untraceable forms of payment. Where possible, use things like PayPal or Verified by Visa payment systems to protect yourself and your assets.
An ounce of prevention
People looking to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers have been around as long as there have been marketplaces to shop in. Today’s cybercriminals are no different. They are not only technically savvy, but they also recognize the latest consumer trends, understand the underlying assumptions shoppers make, and know-how to exploit them. However, by taking the time now to educate ourselves and others, we can have a productive – and safe – holiday shopping experience.
Nokia 7.2: The sweet-spot for mid-range
Nokia has hit one of the best quality-to-price ratios with the Nokia 7.2. BRYAN TURNER tested the device.
Cameras are often the main factor in selecting a smartphone today. Nokia is no stranger to the high-end camera smartphone market, and its legacy shows with the latest Nokia 7.2.
In many aspects, the device looks and feels like an expensive flagship, yet it carries a mid-range R6000 price tag. From its vivid PureDisplay technology to an ultra-wide camera lens, it’s quite something to experience this device – especially knowing the price.
Before powering it on, one notices the sleek design. The front features a large, 6.3” screen, with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. Like many phones nowadays, it features a notch, but it is smaller than the usual earpiece-and-camera notch. Instead, it features a small notch for the front camera only. It hides the front earpiece away in a slim cutout, just under the outer frame. While it’s not the highest screen-to-body (STB) ratio, it has a pretty slim bezel with an 83.34% STB ratio. It loses some of this to an elegant chin on the bottom that shows the Nokia logo. This is all protected by a Gorilla glass certification, which makes it a little more difficult to shatter on an impact.
It’s encased by a Polycarbonate composite outer frame, which seems metal-like but will withstand more knocks than an aluminium frame. On the right side, it features a volume rocker and a power button and, on the left side, a Google Assistant button, which starts listening for commands when pressed. Above the button is the SIM and SD card tray. On the top, it houses a very welcome 3.5mm headphone jack. On the bottom, it has a speaker grille and a USB Type-C port. Overall, the positioning of the buttons takes some getting used to because the Assistant button and power button are similarly sized, and many smartphones place the lock button on the opposite side of the volume rocker.
The back features a frosted Gorilla glass panel, like the front. The frosted design is quite understated and yet another elegant design feature of the device. A fingerprint sensor sits in the middle and, towards the top, the device has a circular camera bump, not too different from the Huawei Mate 30 series. The bump features two lenses, a depth sensor, and a flash. The camera system has been made in partnership with Zeiss optics to produce high-quality photography.
When powering on the device, one is greeted with the Android One logo, which is Nokia’s promise that its users will always be among the first to get the latest Android security and feature updates. This is one of the defining purchase points for users looking to get this device, as it features the purest, unedited version of Android available.
This, in turn, allows the device to run the latest software by Google that enables the device to get better over time. This is done by using Google’s Artificial Intelligence engine, which learns how one uses the device and optimises apps and services accordingly. That translates to the phone’s battery life actually extending over time, instead of deteriorating like other smartphones that are weighed down by battery hungry apps. The concept was pioneered by Huawei in the Mate 9.
The rear camera is excellent for snapping pictures and features a 48MP Sony sensor for accurate colour reproduction. This puts the device in the league of the Google Pixel and Apple iPhone devices, which also use Sony sensors. By default, the device is set to take pictures at 12MP, which is what makes the photos look great, as it blends 4 pixels into one for a high level of sharpness and colour accuracy, but users can bump up the resolution to the full 48MP if they want to zoom in a bit more.
The 8MP wide-angle lens spans 118-degrees, and proves extremely useful for getting everyone in the shot. It also features some great colour accuracy. The 5MP depth-sensing lens is purely for the portrait mode, which adds a blur effect to the background of the photo. It features a 20MP selfie camera, which also provides excellent sharpness and a portrait mode.
The most impressive part of this system is the Pro camera setting, which can help take photos from excellent to extraordinary. We managed to get some excellent low light photography by adjusting the shutter speed, ISO, and exposure. The setting is pretty easy to use and it’s worth it for users to learn how it works.
The PureDisplay also helps make photos and video look great. The 7.2’s PureDisplay has a 2160 x 1080 resolution, at 401 pixels per inch (ppi). It also makes use of HDR10 and covers 96% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut, which makes the colours very vibrant. Some of these display features are not even found in some high-end phones on the market, so it’s very surprising that this tech is in a mid-range device.
At this price, there is one drawback: the processor. It houses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660, which is neither bad nor good. It performs well in many situations, but begins to stutter on heavier graphical applications like Fortnite and PUBG Mobile. That said, all other applications of the device work perfectly, and multi-tasking is very fluid between regular apps.
At a recommended selling price of R6,000, the Nokia 7.2 is one of the most feature rich and aesthetically pleasing devices available in this price range.
Voice interface move digital wars to ‘first mile’
By RICHARD MULLINS, Managing Director for EMEA at Acceleration
Anyone who often travels on the London tube will notice people around them – usually students and young professionals – speaking into their smartphones even in sections of the underground without Wi-Fi or cellular coverage. They’re not sweet-talking their mobile devices, but cueing up a series of WhatsApp voice messages to be sent to their friends and colleagues as soon as they walk back into an area with an Internet connection.
This shift away from text-based and visual communication to multi-sensory (voice and visual) is one of the most significant trends to emerge from the next wave of artificial intelligence technologies. Many members of Generations X and Y abandoned voice calls for instant messaging once they got smartphones; now, the next generation are becoming more vocal in how they interact with – and through – machines.
We’re already seeing rising adoption of conversational voice interfaces, as young and imperfect as the technology still is. Research from comScore predicts that half of all searches will be performed via voice by 2020, while a study by Voicebot.ai indicates that nearly one in five US adults own a smart speaker or have access to one in their homes.
This trend is one reason that we are seeing the battle for the digital customer move away from the ‘last mile’ to the ‘first mile’ at a rapid speed. Now that the giants of ecommerce have largely solved the ‘last mile’ challenge of reliable logistics and rapid delivery, they are looking at ways they can tighten their grip on the first digital mile, where customers engage with and discover content, product and services.
Raising the stakes
This race to own the customer interface is not new, but the stakes are rising. We already live in a world with two major smartphone platforms (Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android), and now a handful of companies (Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon) are seeking to own the voice interface with smart devices like speakers, kitchen appliances and home security systems.
Most consumers are today using voice conversation interfaces for simple content requests – Alexa, give me the news headlines; Siri, play my party mix – and the experience can be somewhat clunky. However, technology is improving exponentially, as we saw earlier this year when Google demoed its assistant phoning a hairdresser to make an appointment on behalf of a user.
Such interfaces are likely to become the place where a high proportion of customers are converted and complete transactions in the next few years. In other words, the likes of Apple and Google will have even more power over what consumers see, hear and interact with than they do today. Brands should be thinking about how they will prepare themselves for this future.
One of the first considerations is how they can use voice to engage with customers in an increasingly natural and simple nature. Today, it is usually easy to tell when you are speaking to a virtual assistant or chatbot, but in future, these interfaces will become harder to tell humans and machines apart, unless you are told.
This is an opportunity to offer personalised service in an automated manner—the human touch at machine scale. Brands that offer the best experiences through their conversational interfaces will have a competitive advantage. This will not just be about the AI driving the interaction, but also about how brands use data to personalise interactions and make them more relevant to customers.
How will you reach your customers?
Brands also need to decide how they will reach their customers in the first place – will they create services for platforms like Alexa and focus on mobile apps? Or will they try to take control of more of the digital first mile themselves? This will be a daunting challenge, but the rewards may be significant since the companies in the digital first mile will control the data and own the customer.
For this reason, we can expect to see those companies with the resources to do so focus on owning more of the customer interface and becoming the gateways to service and commerce for their client base. They will partner with other big brands to create platforms, experiences and digital destinations where customers can purchase a variety of goods and services.
Consider examples such as how Discovery’s Vitality weaves together healthcare, lifestyle brands and financial services, then think about how they might evolve in a digital world. Brands have long cooperated through strategies such as white label products, sponsorship agreements and distribution deals, but the next wave of digital change will take it to a new level.
As this shakes out in the years to come, brands will need to focus on building a technical architecture that enables them to rapidly partner with other brands to roll out innovative solutions and services. They will also need to consider how and where they will capture customer data and which touchpoints they can use to own the customer relationship.
The challenges will not be purely technical in nature. There is the human element of blending AI and people into ‘teams’ that deliver the best possible customer experience. Companies will also need to think about their business models and where they fit into the value chain. Those that align AI and data behind a coherent business strategy will be the ones who will win the first digital mile.