Don't Let Hackers Ruin Your Black Friday: A Cybersecurity Guide for Shoppers & Sellers

Navigate Black Friday securely with our comprehensive guide, uncovering key cyber threats like Quishing, DDOS, and Domain Spoofing, and exploring effective cybersecurity practices for both shoppers and sellers.

Originating from the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday now signals the official start of the Christmas shopping season. According to market analytics company GfK, online channels accounted for around 15% of sales over the Black Friday period in 2022 in South Africa. The sheer volume of transactions taking place can make this a highly lucrative period for businesses, provided they can navigate the rippling tide of traffic and demand.

However, this massive influx of online shoppers serves as an opportunity for hackers and cybercriminals. With the substantial rise in electronic transactions, the chances of online fraud, scams, and cyber threats also increase significantly. Cybersecurity might seem like a niche concern for typical shoppers eager to score big on deals, but it is, in fact, imperative for everyone engaging with online platforms on this day.

Protecting your personal information and cash against cyber threats becomes as essential as bagging the best deals. For businesses, they must ensure that their platforms are not only able to handle the expected traffic but that they also provide a secure environment for their customers to shop.

This blog post aims to provide both shoppers and sellers with comprehensive knowledge and strategies on how to stay safe online this Black Friday. From shedding light on cybersecurity threats like Quishing (QR code phishing), DDOS attacks, domain spoofing to sharing some valuable cybersecurity best practices, we plan to equip you with the right information to make your Black Friday a safe and successful experience.  

Understanding the Key Cyber Threats on Black Friday

The Rise of Cybercrime During Black Friday

The lure of Black Friday, with its heightened online transactions and often frantic shoppers, presents an ideal scenario for such unscrupulous activities. Cybersecurity firms have often reported noticeable increases in cyber-attacks during this period, highlighting the importance of remaining vigilant and informed.

One primary reason for this rise is the mix of rush and distraction that characterizes Black Friday for many shoppers. Many let their guard down in the pursuit of lightning deals, often overlooking alarming signals of fraudulent activities. For businesses, the surge in customer traffic can make it challenging to monitor and manage security effectively, thereby opening an avenue for potential breaches.  

Ways Hackers Can Ruin Your Black Friday

Understanding the tactics employed by hackers is the first step in safeguarding against them. Here are some of the most common strategies used by cybercriminals during Black Friday:

  1. Phishing Attacks: Deceptive emails or texts from seemingly trusted sources lure people into providing sensitive information like credit card numbers or login credentials.
  1. Quishing (QR Code Phishing): QR codes, often used for contactless payments or accessing deals, can be manipulated by hackers to redirect to malicious websites or downloads.  
  1. DDOS Attacks: Cybercriminals can overwhelm a website with traffic, causing it to crash, often timed perfectly to disrupt the busiest shopping times.  
  1. Domain Spoofing: Fraudsters create counterfeit websites or emails that appear strikingly similar to legitimate ones, duping shoppers into divulging personal information or making payments.

By being cognisant of these threats, shoppers can stay one step ahead of the cybercriminals. In the following sections, we'll delve deeper into each of these cyber threats and provide practical tips on how to identify and address them.  

Understand Quishing (QR Code Phishing)

QR codes  provide a quick and efficient way to navigate to websites, make payments, and more. However, this convenience is not without its pitfalls, and one such pitfall is Quishing.

What is Quishing

Quishing, a portmanteau of 'QR code' and 'phishing,' involves the use of fraudulent QR codes to redirect users to malicious websites, dupe them into downloading malware, or capturing sensitive information. Cybercriminals cleverly craft these codes and strategically place them where users are likely to scan them, like on payment links, coupons or marketing emails - especially during glowing sales events like Black Friday.  

Real-Life Examples of Quishing Attacks  

Quishing attacks are increasingly becoming a common occurrence. Here are a couple of real-life examples demonstrating how they work:  

  1. QR codes under the guise of discount coupons: A shopper looking to save some extra on Black Friday deals stumbles upon a QR code promising a significant discount. Upon scanning, instead of landing on the discount page, the shopper is led to a malicious site designed to steal login credentials or other personal information.
  1. QR codes for Booking seats: In another example, an email, seemingly from a popular cinema chain, is sent with a QR code to book seats for an exclusive premiere. Upon scanning the QR code, the user's phone gets infected with malware that monitors and captures personal data.  

Tips to Identify and Avoid Quishing

Quishing attacks are cleverly devised, but that doesn't mean you are helpless against them. Here are some tips to help stay secure:

  1. Before scanning, check the source of the QR code - if it's provided by a trusted entity like your bank or a well-known retailer. If the source is suspicious or unknown, it's better to refrain from scanning.  
  1. Use QR scanner apps that display the URL before redirecting you to the website. This way, you have the option to avoid suspicious websites.
  1. Be wary of any QR code that asks for login or personal information. Legitimate organizations won't ask for sensitive information through QR codes.
  1. Install a reliable mobile security solution that can detect and warn about malicious links or downloads.

Recognize DDOS Attacks

While quishing targets individual shoppers, another dreaded form of cyber-attack aims at disrupting entire infrastructures - these are known as Distributed Denial of Service, or DDOS attacks.

What are DDOS Attacks  

The principle behind a DDOS attack is fairly straightforward. Hackers overrun a server with so much traffic that it can no longer process any requests, thereby rendering the website or a service unavailable. DDOS attacks leverage multiple compromised computers as sources of traffic, making these attacks quite difficult to mitigate.

The Role of these Attacks in Black Friday Sales

Black Friday sales are characterized by high online traffic, with businesses launching multiple campaigns to attract customers to their websites. Unfortunately, this makes Black Friday an attractive period for hackers to launch DDOS attacks. By rendering commerce platforms inaccessible during peak shopping hours, they can cause significant disruption. Not only can businesses lose sizeable revenue but their reputation can be severely dented as consumers lose trust in their ability to provide a dependable shopping experience.

Preventive Measures to Protect Against DDOS Attacks

While businesses largely bear the brunt of DDOS attacks, being aware of such risks as a shopper can inform your choices of online platforms, particularly during peak shopping seasons like Black Friday. Here are some preventive measures businesses can take to bolster their defenses:  

  1. Monitor traffic: Regularly monitor your website traffic to understand normal traffic patterns and be able to identify sudden suspicious spikes.
  1. Have a response plan: Prepare a comprehensive incident response plan to ensure you can react quickly and effectively in the event of an attack.
  1. Engage with DDOS protection services: These services can help absorb the extra traffic during a DDOS attack, ensuring your site remains operational despite the assault.
  1. Keep software and systems updated: Regular updates can help protect against the latest vulnerabilities that hackers might exploit.

Recognising Domain Spoofing

As you navigate the great digital ocean of Black Friday deals, another cyber menace that could potentially threaten your safety is domain spoofing. It's more prevalent than many realize and being aware of it can make a significant difference to your online security.  

What is Domain Spoofing

Domain spoofing is a technique where cybercriminals create a fake website or email that closely imitates a legitimate one. The key element of domain spoofing is deception. The fraudulent website or email address is designed to appear so authentic that it successfully fools individuals into believing they're interacting with a trusted entity. The goal for the hacker? To steal sensitive information like your login credentials or financial details.  

Domain Spoofing and Black Friday: The Connection

Black Friday can be a field day for domain spoofers. Hordes of shoppers hunting for deals, heavy email traffic marketing myriad offers, and heightened shopping activities create the perfect ecosystem for cybercriminals to inject their spoofed websites and emails. By imitating trusted retailers, these hackers can trick shoppers into revealing sensitive information or even making payments to them, thinking they've secured a discount deal.

How To Spot and Avoid Domain Spoofing

Here are some actionable tips just for you to help spot and avoid domain spoofing:

  1. Inspect the URL: Carefully examine the website's URL. Look out for misspellings, extra characters, or anything out of the ordinary in the domain name.
  1. Check the Security Certificate: Ensure the site uses 'https' indicating it is secure. Look for the padlock icon near the URL.  
  1. Use Trusted Retailer's App: Shopping on the retailer's app downloaded from a trusted source minimises the risks of landing on a spoofed website.  
  1. Do Not Click on Suspicious Emails: Be wary of emails from unknown sources or with outrageous deals. Do not click on any link or download files from such emails.
  1. Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Wherever possible, use 2FA for your accounts. This adds an extra layer of security even if your credentials get stolen.

Cybersecurity Best Practices For Shoppers

As we examine the murky waters of cyber threats, our objective isn't to deter you from the excitement of Black Friday. Instead, we want to arm you with practical strategies to keep your online shopping experience both enjoyable and secure.  

Essential Cybersecurity Measures on Black Friday

  1. Shop only on secure websites: Look for 'https' in the URL or a padlock icon. These signify that the site uses SSL encryption, making your data less likely to be intercepted by hackers.
  1. Be wary of too-good-to-be-true deals: Extraordinary discounts can be tempting, but they can also be traps set by cybercriminals looking to lure in susceptible shopper.
  1. Avoid public Wi-Fi: Try not to perform transactions when connected to public Wi-Fi. These networks often lack robust security measures making them ideal playgrounds for hackers.
  1. Regularly monitor your financial activity: Keep a close eye on your bank statements. This way, you can spot and report any dubious transactions immediately.
  1. Use Strong, Unique Passwords: Ensure every online account has a unique and strong password. Consider using a password manager to help with this.

Cybersecurity Tools to Enhance Your Shopping Safety

  1. Antivirus Software: A robust antivirus solution can protect your devices from malware and other threats.
  1. VPN: A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can mask your online activity, making it hard for hackers to track or intercept your data.
  1. Password Managers: These not only help you create and store strong and unique passwords but also automatically alert if any of your accounts have been compromised.
  1. Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Enabling 2FA on your accounts adds an extra security layer to protect your data.

Cybersecurity Guide for Sellers

While a large part of this guide has been shopper-centric, cybersecurity is a two-fold issue. Businesses, particularly those operating online, need to gear up and ensure their platforms are secure and trustworthy for their customers on Black Friday and beyond.

Essential Cybersecurity Measures for Businesses

A cyber-attack can be a crippling blow to any businesses, leading to reputational damage, loss of customer trust, and financial losses. To avoid such scenarios, businesses must take the following measures:  

  1. Security First Approach: Make Cybersecurity a foundational part of your business strategy. Consider it an investment rather than an overhead cost.
  1. Updated Systems: Keep your systems, software and plugins updated. Each update often includes patches for security vulnerabilities.
  1. Secure Payment Gateways: Make use of secure and verified payment gateways. Providing a secure payment process is key to gaining customer trust.
  1. Employee Training: Conduct regular cybersecurity trainings for your employees to make them aware of evolving threats and how they can contribute to your company's cybersecurity efforts.
  1. Backup Data: Regularly backup critical data. In case of a breach, you’ll be able to recover crucial information.

Monitoring and Detecting Cyber Threats  

  1. Invest in Security Tools: Use security tools that can monitor your digital infrastructure, identify anomalies and raise alerts.
  1. Regular Audits: Conduct regular security audits to identify vulnerabilities. These audits can provide valuable insights into potential areas of improvement.
  1. Incident Response Plan: Develop an incident response plan which clearly outlines the steps to be taken in case of a cyber attack.
  1. Engage with Cybersecurity Experts: If your business lacks the expertise, consider hiring cybersecurity professionals or consulting with cybersecurity firms. Their expertise can significantly bolster your business's cybersecurity posture.


Navigating Black Friday is exhilarating and exhausting. By understanding some of the most common cyber criminal tactics you can keep safer while shopping great deals, spotting them before they spot you.  

We hope this guide has been beneficial and has armed you with the knowledge to proactively uphold your cybersecurity as you maneuver through the bustling digital markets this Black Friday. By doing so, you ensure that your holiday season shopping memories are all filled with joy, minus the cyber worries.

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