Black Friday is around the corner and as always consumers are being warned to look out for scams while shopping online. But with more people shopping online in 2020, cybercriminals are likely to be out in full force.

A new report by Mimecast called ‘Company-issued Computers: What are employees really doing with them?’ suggests employees are increasingly using their work devices for personal use, which creates potential risks for their employers.

Seventy-four percent of South African respondents admitted to using their work-issued laptops, tablets or smartphones for personal use, with 51% saying they shop online. Six out of 10 also reported using their work devices for personal matters more often since the start of the pandemic, which means criminals are likely to have even more people to bait during this year’s online shopping frenzy.

But it’s more than a simple increase in online activity that we need to be concerned about. New data from Mimecast’s Threat Intelligence Centre shows that the coronavirus isn’t the only thing spreading at rapid speed around the world. Between January and October this year, Mimecast detected and blocked more than one billion malicious threats, a more than 34% increase over 2019. Cyberattacks in October were up 22% over September, with retail and wholesale the most targeted industry sector.

Duane Nicol, cybersecurity specialist at Mimecast, warns that cybercriminals are likely waiting to pounce on unsuspecting shoppers. But consumers can protect themselves with a few simple steps, to make sure the criminals aren’t the ones finding bargains this year:

* Free WIFI is rarely secure so don’t be that guy – With most office workers still working remotely, it has become totally normal to connect to company systems via personal networks. But please keep information – such as name, address and credit card details – safe by not connecting to public networks such as those at coffee shops or airports, as these are invariably less secure and easier to compromise.

* Assume all links are phishy – It’s become really easy for criminals to impersonate well-known retailers by setting up fake sites that look remarkably like the real thing. Cybercriminals can easily direct consumers to malicious websites using pop-up ads or phishing links in marketing emails, so it’s best to stay away. Any legitimate Black Friday deal will feature on the retailer’s website so it’s better to go directly to the real site or use their mobile app. And let’s face it, if it seems too-good-to-be-true, it probably is.

* If you’re still using the same password for everything, you’re doing it wrong – Some retailers offer greater discounts when shoppers sign up to their rewards program or newsletter. Always use a unique password. That way, if the password becomes exposed, it won’t compromise your other accounts, such as email, banking or anything work related. You should be using unique passwords for every service and platform anyway.

* I’ve never seen a deal come in an email attachment – Cybercriminals can easily embed malware into email attachments and compromise your security when you open it. Retailers typically don’t send shoppers downloadable attachments, so think twice before opening anything and rather go directly to the retailer’s website or app. The last thing you want is to infect your own device with malware, or even worse be the person that brings down your company network.