4 Tips to Shop Securely Online

November 16th, 2012 - Category - Cyber Security, IT Best Practices

1.7 million people plan to shun the high street and take to the internet for their christmas shopping this year. A study by the website BeforeWeBuy states that this year will see a 6% increase in the number of online only shoppers, and that two thirds of us will do at least some of our Christmas shopping online.

Criminals are good at following trends; they have their online traps baited and ready for the holidays, hoping to nab credit card numbers from unsuspecting shoppers. We are not trying to deter you from shopping online, there are also risks and unpleasantries associated with traditional shopping, like muggings and foul body odors; instead, we want to educate you on four best practices to ensure your online shopping is safe and pleasant this holiday season.

Use a Secure PC

Before you do anything else online, you first need to make sure your computer is secure. You should check your security software, and find out if is up-to-date. It is even a good idea to run a scan before you do a transaction. One trap used by cybercriminals is to plant a keylogger in your system that will keep track of every keystroke. When the keylogger detects anything that looks like sensitive data, it will automatically communicate your information to the wrong people. Another important safeguard is to keep your browser and operating system current, be sure to check for updates before shopping.

Shop Trusted Sites

When you surf the net for deals, you will come across many advertisements tailored to your search engine inquires. If an advertisement sounds too good to be true (like an iPad for 72% off), then it probably is. These too-good-to-be-true ads are likely ploys used to get you to visit a shady third party site. The best practice is to shop the official websites of major companies.

A Padlock for Your Browser

Before you make a purchase, look for a little padlock icon in your web browser, and make sure the padlock is in the locked position. This means that the site has a secure socket layer (SSL) of encryption to enhance security. One way to double check if the padlock is real or not is look at the URL, if it starts with HTTPS://, instead of HTTP://, this means it is a legitimate SSL site. Several security software companies add an additional layer of shopping protection by giving you the option to open the webpage in a virtual window using their software. Avast calls this the SafeZone, look for this feature with your antivirus software.

Credit, Not Debit

Credit cards give you the option to “charge back” fraudulent transactions to your account if they are caught within an agreed upon period of time, be sure to frequently check your statements to catch any weird transactions. Debit cards do not have this “charge back” feature, if money is stolen from your debit account, then it is gone for good. The most secure option for shopping online is to use gift cards, or rechargeable credit cards.

Three additional online shopping tips are:

  • Never shop over a public Wi-Fi connection
  • Use official apps directly from the company when shopping from your mobile device
  • Remember to use strong passwords when creating an account. A lot of this boils down to common sense, if your gut is telling you something is fishy then it is best to stay clear.

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About Mit Patel

Mit - Managing Director. In 2002, Mit founded Netstar. He has helped grow Netstar to become an indispensable partner to some of London’s finest businesses, including well known names in the Financial Services industry. Mit works across all aspects of the business including strategic planning and key account management. Mit is focused on ensuring the delivery of a high quality service, and providing strategic value to help our customers overcome their business challenges.