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How to have a safe online holiday season

Nov 17, 2020 · 4 min read

How to have a safe online holiday season

The holiday season is approaching, and we obviously want to spend it with our friends and loved ones. But the COVID-19 pandemic might have other plans, and the large family gatherings we are so used to during hte holiday season not be the best choice this year.

Fortunately, online tools give us the opportunity to have our get-togethers remotely. You can play, party, order food, or watch movies together without crossing your doorstep. However, as more of our work and play moves online, so do cybersecurity threats. Here are a few of our tips on how to stay safe during the holidays and protect yourself online.

Safe online meetings

Instead of physically getting together, have a video conference with your loved ones. With a wide selection of apps available, you can easily choose one that is safe and fast enough. Of course, there are some you should avoid (yes, we are looking at you, Zoom). Here are some tips on how to have safe gatherings online:

  • Create closed private rooms just for the people you know and don't let strangers connect;
  • Do not share teleconferencing links publicly;
  • Make sure your passwords are safe and strong. If you can, use them to protect your chat rooms;
  • Ensure the apps you use have end-to-end encryption.

Safe streaming

Holiday movies are one of the most popular types of entertainment during the holiday season. Going to a cinema is always fun, but home streaming could also be an entertaining alternative. The problem is that ISPs sometimes curb users' traffic. This practice is called bandwidth throttling, and it usually happens during peak hours or when someone engages in activities requiring a lot of bandwidth resources. However, you can work around it by using a VPN, as the ISP will not see what you do online and won’t be able to limit your encrypted traffic.

A premium VPN won't slow your traffic down by much. NordVPN offers the extra fast NordLynx protocol, which won't slow down your bandwidth in any noticeable way. Also, its SmartPlay feature will allow you to enjoy your favorite movies smoothly.

Safe food ordering

We'll all miss gathering around large tables jam-packed with dishes together with our loved ones, but you can still share the experience online. Just use online food delivery simultaneously with those on the other end of the line and enjoy the meal together over a video call. Althogh you can't try each others' dishes or exchange hugs, you can still have a wonderful conversation over a meal and say a toast to the camera.

Safe gift shopping

Strolling through shopping malls is an exhausting experience. Besides, malls are usually crowded during the holiday season, which creates the perfect conditions for viruses to spread. So why not shop for gifts online? It'll save you time and save you the risk of exposing yourself to pandemic-related dangers – but don't fall for online shopping risks either.

However, make sure you do so safely. Firstly, do not be seduced by annoying popups or reappearing ads offering unrealistic deals. You will more likely contract malware or download some unwanted clutter software than find a bargain. NordVPN has an excellent tool, CyberSec, which will block malicious ads.

Also, make sure to tweak your cookie settings and leave only the most essential ones enabled. Malicious third-party cookies or super cookies can track your actions online and feed you with ads, so make sure you have as few of them as possible. Moreover, they can ruin your holiday surprise by auto-displaying ads for the items you purchased or even just viewed. You can find out how to deal with cookies here.

To avoid scams, make sure you buy only from reliable sellers. Do some quick research in case you have even the slightest doubt about the retailer's legitimacy.

Safe gaming

If you decide to challenge your siblings or cousins to a video game session, make sure you do so safely. Online gamers sometimes fall victim to DDoS attacks and in-game cheaters. The above-mentioned bandwidth throttling can also sour an exciting online match, or you may even face restrictions preventing you from accessing certain features. Again, NordVPN can help you with that too. It will encrypt your traffic and help you bypass gaming geo-blocks by changing your IP address.

Other tips

To make your celebration not only fun but also safe, here are some more general safety tips from us:

  • Encrypt your connection with a VPN so that no one could breach your privacy or snatch your personal data. As quite a lot of our social lives now take place online, you surely don't want a snooper to intercept your private conversations;
  • Use strong passwords. If you find it hard to remember them, try our NordPass tool;
  • Make sure your loved ones are protected too. Pay special attention to your youngest family members, who are sometimes not aware of cyber threats. Teach them about potential online risks and the methods to avoid them;
  • Avoid suspicious ads, links, or emails from persons you don't know;
  • Always do proper research before using a service to make sure it is safe and reliable.

Have a happy holiday season!

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Paul Black
Paul Black successVerified author

Paul is a technology and art enthusiast who is always eager to explore the most up-to-date issues in cybersec and internet freedom. He is always in search for new and unexplored angles to share with his readers.


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