Ninety percent of shoppers will use their smartphones in-store this holiday season, and that puts them at particular risk for cybercrime, according to a new report from Skycure.

As mobile continues to become the primary method of digital commerce for many shoppers, the threats to their financial safety grow. This holiday season, shoppers and retailers need to be on the lookout for both malicious applications posing as retail apps and for potential Wi-Fi hacking.


Security matters
This holiday season will be one of the biggest and now, more than ever, mobile will be leading the charge for shoppers who want to make smarter decisions.

But that new power that comes from increased mobile presence in the retail world comes with a few caveats that both consumers and retailers need to be on the lookout for.

For one, mobile as a channel is still vulnerable to threats from hackers.

Skycure looked at two ways that hackers could target mobile shoppers this holiday season.

The first is through tampering with Wi-Fi. As users continue to use their mobile devices in-store to make purchasing decisions, many of them will be looking for Wi-Fi to connect to to save on data costs.

Hackers can take advantage of this need in two ways. They can hack into a store or mall’s Wi-Fi and gather data from the connected devices, or they can set up their own Wi-Fi networks, misleading customers into thinking they are safe networks set up by the retailer they are currently visiting.

Once a shopper connects to one of these networks, the hackers now have a way in to their devices and the opportunity to steal valuable data.

Skycure compiled a list of which malls around the country were the most dangerous in this regard, with the highest amount of risky Wi-Fi networks. The top spot, a mall in Las Vegas, had 14 different Wi-Fi networks that could put customers at risk.

Malicious apps
The other problem that mobile shoppers face is the prospect of malicious apps posing as official retail apps.

Skycure found a number of examples of apps available on mainstream app stores that posed as official apps for well-known retailers. Brands such as Amazon and Starbucks were impersonated by apps that intentionally misrepresented themselves to appear reputable.

In reality, these apps contain malicious code that can work its way into a mobile device’s vulnerable areas.

One example, an app posing as an Amazon Rewards program, sent malicious code from the victim’s phone to others through SMS once it had been ingrained.

While shoppers are the ones who stand the most to lose from these types of scams, the impetus falls on both customers and retailers to take measures to fight these crimes. If not, they risk losing customers’ precious trust in both them and the mobile channel, shutting off an entire source of revenue and brand goodwill.


We all love free WiFi, don´t we? At work, at a friends’s place, in a hotel lounge when on a vacation. While the idea of superfast WiFi in a random coffee shop at no extra cost is tempting, there are chances you are putting your smartphone at potential risks including malfunctioning due to virus, loss of private data, and even hacking.

The cost of internet browsing over mobile carriers is still expensive and using open WiFi, especially when on roaming, makes for a sensible choice. While not using your smartphone when on a vacation sounds like a nice digital detox, there are ways you can still use that free and fast hotel WiFi and still be safe from possible hacking or virus attack.

1. Don’t Trust

Some WiFi networks could be completely bogus and set up purely for nabbing data. Don’t be afraid to question a network’s legitimacy. Mostly the data asked by these networks include email address along with mobile number. It is extremely tempting to simply fill in the details to login the network just to send that one quick official mail or post a selfie, these are often followed by promotional emails and advertisements. In cases when you do end up receiving newsletters or promotional emails or messages from the hotel you stayed in or the coffee shop you visited, it is best to immediately unsubscribe from their mailing list and alongside also inform your network carrier to activate DND service. Also, it is extremely important to keep an eye for emails which ask you for a feedback which include specific and unrelated queries.

2. Sign Out After Use

If using free WiFi, make sure you’ve signed out of all apps before doing so. This ensures that the network doesn’t bypass the security and make the apps vulnerable to external access. Many a times we keep logged into apps permanently, especially social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., so that we don’t have to put in login credentials again and again. But doing so only makes the accounts prone to hacking and misuse. While using public WiFi, it is more critical as most of these accounts are interlinked and branch out of a single email address.

3. Browse Securely

A user’s internet browsing behavior is closely monitored by the network as well as the sites you visit which are interlinked. For example, if you are visiting a shopping site while browsing through your social media account, chances are you will be shown advertisements related to your previous searches. So it is wiser to stick to using a browser, don’t visit sites that require a login and only visit those that you know are legitimate, think twice before clicking on any link. At times seemingly harmless links are booby-trapped and lead you to unsafe websites which can in turn plant virus into your device or get unauthorized access to personal data. To thwart this, one can consider using a VPN app (Virtually Private Network) for secure browsing. Usually, to have a secure browsing experience over VPN the end user has to pay for extended subscriptions or restrict their usage. But Opera has recently integrated free and unlimited VPN to its browser making public WiFi usage more secure.

4. Use Mobile Data for Transactions

Make it a rule to never use public WiFi when making financial transactions. If you have to access financial information, accept the roaming fee and do it over 3G or 4G/LTE even if it costs you more. Also, make sure to use a secure browser while making online payments and opt for multi-level authentication process to be fully sure of security.

5. Use Updated Apps

Having updated app not only makes the user experience smoother, it also cleans the app of bugs or issues which may put the device data at risk. Make sure all apps and operating systems are fully up to date. You can also have a form of anti-virus app running on your smartphone to be aware of any malicious activity.