Black Friday and Cyber Monday: The good, bad and ugly - with tips to help online

Everyone loves a deal. And geeks, nerds, government technology staff and cyber pros especially like deals on new technology.

Photo credit: Flickr/Mahat Tattva


Everyone loves a deal. And geeks, nerds, government technology staff and cyber pros especially like deals on new technology. So much so, that many of us scour online and offline media as we approach Thanksgiving - longing to save a buck on popular toys for home or mobile devices for your BYOD-enabled office.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become the magic key words we look for when it comes to cheap holiday shopping opportunities. A recent Computerworld article proclaimed that retailors are set to slash prices of Apple and Microsoft tablets on Black Friday – with Walmart, Target and Best Buy offering discounts up to 75% on last year’s gear. Here’s an excerpt:

Electronics chain Best Buy, for example, will sell Apple's iPad 2, a tablet introduced in 2011, for $300, or $99 off Apple's list price. Even though Apple recently launched the 9.7-in. iPad Air, and started selling the upgraded 7.9-in. iPad Mini with a high-resolution display, it kept the iPad 2 in its portfolio, reportedly because schools continue to purchase the model and some businesses have standardized on the tablet for point-of-sales devices.

And while there are plenty of other great deals this holiday season, there are few things to keep in mind as you jump into the fray.

The Good

Most of us have at least one positive holiday shopping story from the ghost of Christmas past. Instinctively, we remember back to a time when we found some incredible savings offer either online or in-line.

I have fond memories of waiting in the early morning cold for hours on Black Friday with my daughter Katherine (back in the late 1990s) to get a new desktop PC with monitor for $200. We were so excited as we ran in the store and got the last remaining discount bundle. It was a Compaq Computer, and although I can’t remember the model details, I do remember bragging about the great deal we got to family and friends throughout that entire Christmas season.

Like many families around the USA, our Black Friday outings became a family tradition for almost a decade. We would go out and shop, leaving at 5 AM (or earlier) – and wrap up our morning with breakfast out somewhere nice around 11 AM.

Over the past few years, the Lohrmanns have cut back on the cold early morning shopping on Black Friday – and converted over to the Cyber Monday crowd. (We’ve also resisted shopping on Thanksgiving or going out at midnight as many retailers have recently encouraged.)  Still, we keep our eyes out for deals – just in case we change our minds.

The Bad

A friend was once told that the name “Black Friday” came from the day that retailers went into the black for the year – making much-needed sales. Wikipedia lists other reasons for the name Black Friday, but regardless of the history, there is definitely also a “dark side” to watch out for. 

One example of the holiday rush is illustrated in the fun scenes of the 1996 movie “Jingle All the Way.” Check out this funny movie clip as an example:


Other downsides of Black Friday include crowded malls, traffic jams, bargains that sell out, angry sales staff or even thieves that are looking for opportunities to steal your valuables or your credit cards as you watch your kids in the mall.

Still, most of us understand that the bad comes with the good. In 2013, spending is expected to be up substantially over last year’s holiday season. According to American Express back in October:

…While it’s still not clear how the holiday season will actually play out, consumers say they will expect to spend $1,260, up $400 from last year. Aiming to find the best deals, more than a quarter of Americans say they’ve already started holiday shopping and will finish before December 1st  (27% vs. 24% in 2012), while others expect to finish a week before Christmas (37% vs. 33% in 2012).

Because of these problems, more people than ever are shopping online.

...eMarketer projects that retail ecommerce holiday sales in the US will rise about 15% again this year, matching last year’s gains. In total, US retail ecommerce sales for the holiday season—defined as November and December—are expected to reach $61.8 billion, up from $53.7 billion last year....

The Ugly

With so many people rushing into stores, there are bound to be problems. Two years ago, there were numerous reports of violence and worse across the country on Black Friday. This video shows some extreme examples:



   What can wrong online at this time of year? Answer: Too many things to mention them all. There are Black Friday and Cyber Monday scams to watch out for, and lists the top ones from last year:

1. Free Best Buy Gift Card Scam

2. Fake Ads and Coupons

3. Fake eCards and Videos

4. Internet Searches bring links with malware

More details on these scams and other can be found from this recent International Business Times article.

Help Please!

So what can you do to stay safe in cyberspace? There are several helpful holiday shopping tips which can help us be safer online. I like all these holiday shopping tips from the MS-ISAC. Here are the top five suggestions:

1. Secure your mobile device and computer. Be sure to keep the operating system and application software updated/patched on all of your computers and mobile devices….

2. Know and trust your online shopping merchants. Limit your online shopping to merchants you know and trust….

3. Look for "https" when making an online purchase. The "s" in "https" stands for "secure" and indicates that communication with the webpage is encrypted….

4. Password protect your mobile device and computer. It's the simplest and one of the most important steps to take to secure your mobile device and computer….

5. Do not respond to pop-ups. When a window pops up promising you cash or gift cards for answering a question or taking a survey, close it by pressing Control + F4 for Windows and Command + W for Macs.

 In summary, we need to watch out and be especially vigilant in cyberspace as we head into the holiday season. Just as scams and online tricks occur after global events, natural disasters or political announcements, the holiday season is a time when our guards may be down but the danger is up.

In 2013, the sales and holiday deals seem to be starting sooner than in most years – thus the early release of this blog. But regardless of your timing regarding online shopping endeavors (for home or work), stop and think before you connect.  

Do you have any holiday shopping tips to share?

Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist, keynote speaker and author.