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December 1, 2020

Privacy Tip of the Week: Have a Safe Holiday Season Online

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This year, the holidays are going to look a little different. With COVID-19 still making waves across the globe, travel is restricted and gatherings are limited. In-store shopping has mostly moved online. Traditional get-togethers with family and friends are unlikely this year. Thankfully, with the help of modern technology, we don’t have to forego the celebrations altogether. Instead, you can have a safe holiday season online (and off) with these tips:

  • Shop online
  • Host a virtual get-together
  • Order food digitally
  • Stream content

Shop Online

When November and December roll around, holiday shopping kicks into high gear. Ordinarily, shoppers cram stores and malls to bursting, in search of the perfect gifts and discounts. However, this year, many stores are closed or have limited capacity and stock. Shopping has gone from a fun, if hectic experience, to one with long lines and low inventory. Instead of braving the stores, consider completing your holiday shopping online, as part of a safe holiday season online.

However, before loading up your online cart, make sure you know some of the best ways of staying safe while shopping online. 

First, don’t click on pop-ups or ads, especially if they’re offering deals that seem too good to be true. These ads probably contain malware or even more malicious viruses. You can avoid them by installing an adblocker. 

Second, don’t accept a website’s cookies if possible. Many of these cookies can track your activities even after you leave the website they belong to. They send you personalized ads, and may even sell your information to third party organizations. You can also use a VPN to stop tracking and prevent cookies from being saved in your browser.

Finally, only shop with reputable and reliable sellers. This can prevent you from falling victim to the scams so prevalent around the holiday season.

Host a Virtual Get-Together

This year, in-person family parties and dinners are unsafe, especially for elderly family members or those with pre-existing conditions. Instead of risking the health and lives of your loved ones, host a virtual get-together with a video conferencing program like Skype, or even WhatsApp. 

To keep your virtual parties safe, create closed rooms for your invitees (this prevents strangers from hijacking your event). In addition, if the platform you use allows you to set a password to enter the call, set one. Finally, choose a platform that offers end-to-end encryption so everyone on the call has a safe holiday season this year. 

Order Food Digitally

Food is a huge part of many people’s holiday celebrations. Although we can’t gather this year to share a big meal, there are a few ways to still incorporate food into the season. For example, many grocery stores have started offering online orders and even delivery for their products. You can place your order for your holiday meal online and have it delivered, keeping you out of stores and protecting yourself and others. In addition, if you want to share a meal with friends and family, you can use food delivery services to have meals delivered at the same time, then eat together using a virtual conference platform.

Unfortunately, although ordering food online is convenient, it can have some repercussions for your privacy. Some apps may collect personal information and other forms of data, like your contacts, location, information, and more. Once they have it, they can sell it. Protect your data by looking at the settings and permissions of each app you use. Restrict the information they can access on your phone and don’t give away more information than is necessary for the service to work.

Stream Content

Many people love curling up under a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate while watching a holiday movie. With movie theatres closed in most places, there aren’t any new theatrical releases expected, but streaming services offer plenty of the classics, along with some of their own new content. Streaming safely is an important part of having a safe holiday season.

One of the most important ways of streaming safely is done by using legitimate streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and more. Although these options are more expensive compared to free streaming or video downloading sites, they’re also safer and won’t fill your devices with viruses and malware. Unfortunately, some streaming services don’t offer the content you want in your region, but may offer it in another region. To get around this, use a VPN. VPNs can change your apparent online location so you can unlock content from anywhere in the world. In addition, a VPN will hide your activity from your internet service provider, so your ISP can’t slow your speeds when they see you doing high bandwidth activities, like streaming.

The holiday season will be different this year, but there’s no reason it has to be cancelled altogether. With the power of the internet, you can still stay in touch with loved ones, without putting them in danger.

If you’re looking for a VPN to make your holiday season online a success, why not try HotBot VPN? Our service can be used on up to six Windows, Android, and iOS devices at once, so everyone in your family can stay connected and safe online.

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