Many people take the day off after Thanksgiving and seize the opportunity to run down to their favorite mall or outlets and make the most of the huge discounts on many items, knocking a few presents off the list. Those less keen on finding somewhere to park their car and wait in long queues, may find it much easier to go online and look for some decent bargains.

If you can’t wait to go shopping online today (and on Cyber Monday), just be aware that the bad guys are just as keen to divert your attention to their infected websites and fake bargain stores. Thus we encourage you to pay particular attention when shopping online and searching for those hot deals. We’ve drawn up a short list of tips that will help you keep focused on protecting your machine and your money yet at the same time ensure you have a great shopping experience.

1. Secure Your PC and Network – Be sure the computer you use has, at a minimum, a firewall, up-to-date antivirus software and the latest version of whichever web browser you are running. At home, ensure your wireless network is password-protected. If you must shop online in a public place, avoid using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection.

2. Use Strong Passwords– A strong, alphanumeric password with at least eight characters is an easy way to help defend your personal information online. It is also recommended that you use different user names and passwords for each online account you have.

3. Shop on Trusted, Secure Websites – Before entering your personal financial information to make a transaction, always make sure that you are using a site that provides encryption for the credit card transaction. Look for the closed padlock on the browser’s address bar or at the bottom of the screen. Also check the browser’s address bar to confirm that the URL begins with “https,” signifying a secure site that provides encrypted communication.

4. Protect Personal Information – Most online shopping will require disclosing information to process a transaction. It is normal to provide contact information like an address and phone number, and, when prompted, your credit card number. However, be wary of any request for additional information, especially if it is received by email claiming to confirm a purchase or asking for additional information. Always contact the merchant directly if you have any doubt about requests for personal information you receive.

5. Be Careful What You Click – While searching online for deals and product reviews, be careful about clicking on hyperlinks you run across in search engine results and holiday e-cards, as well as on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, even if it appears that your friends are suggesting a link for you. Always verify the URL address—especially shortened URLs—of any link you run across to ensure it will direct you to a safe, reputable website. One wrong click can lead to malware that could end your holiday shopping season early.

Simple tips but they can make a huge difference to your online shopping experience. Have a good time shopping today, but be careful and wary of the nasty stuff that is lurking out there.