Christmas brings online shopping warning

Make it a safe experience for users, says Frank Hayes

Now it's crunch time. This is the most punishingly high-pressure part of the year, with immovable December deadlines marching ever closer. Nerves will be frayed and you need to give your people all the help and support you can.

No, not IT people. With the holidays coming, the ones who are likely to go over the edge are the users.

Users who will be doing online shopping — some of it from home, but plenty of it from their desks at work.

Users who are more rushed and distracted, so they're more likely to make dumb mistakes — including the kind that open big security holes.

Users who are more worried about holiday parties and gifts than about the projects that require their input, participation or sign-off.

Users who will soon be bringing in gadgets they buy or receive over the holidays.

In short, users who are about to present IT with major potential problems.

Or, just maybe, a great opportunity.

Every December, you struggle against users' inexorable holiday impulses — and lose. This year, why not go with it?

You need to remind them of appropriate-use policies. And holiday changes in helpdesk staffing. And the fact that IT projects still need to get done.

Why not make the centerpiece of that annual memo a list of tips for safe online shopping?

Maybe your users are allowed to e-shop from work. If not, they'll be doing it from home on PCs they also use to work remotely. It's in your interest to keep them safe. Besides, it makes you look like you really care about users.

How? Start with a brief "With the holidays coming..." recap of your appropriate-use policy. Then run through some safe-shopping tips. Here are a dozen to get you started:

-- Shop with online merchants you know and trust.

-- Order from secure websites, which can be identified by a locked padlock or unbroken key icon in your web browser (unsecured sites may show an unlocked padlock or a broken key).

-- Keep printouts of everything, including copies of your order; web pages describing what you ordered; web pages that tell the seller's name, address and telephone number; and any email confirmations you get. And make sure you add the date if it doesn't automatically appear on the printouts.

-- Use credit cards for online purchases, which will limit your loss to $50 if your credit is used without authorisation. You may want to use just one credit card for all online payments, to make it easier to detect wrongful charges.

-- Don't give out unnecessary information.

-- Don't send your credit card number by email.

-- Don't give out your passwords for e-commerce websites to anyone.

-- Don't give out your bank information; no one needs it for an online order.

-- Double-check every website address.

-- Don't click on links within emails. Type in the web site's address yourself -- very carefully.

-- Remember, if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Finish by reminding users of reduced helpdesk hours, ongoing projects and policies about personal gadgets. They'll be more likely than usual to read your memo all the way to the end.

And who knows? By offering helpful advice and gentle reminders, you might just make these holidays happier — and safer — for everyone.

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Tags managementusersonline shoppingChristmas

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