Online Shopping and Cyber Security

online shoppingWith online shopping as popular as ever the importance of cyber security becomes essential to everyone. Shopping, even in the real world, involves money and where there is money, there are criminals. Criminals follow the money trail targeting online shoppers all the a way to their computers, mobile devices, credit cards and bank accounts.

Online shopping became fashionable when people discovered one is free from stress and fatigue caused by crowds and traffic. There is also the convenience of searching whatever it is you want from your home, at your most convenient time, and paying for it without waiting in line. All of these with just a few click of a mouse.

However, the internet is also a convenient place for cyber criminals. They target the online shoppers, fraudulently obtaining information they can use for their own financial gains. These criminals use three common ways in attacking the online shoppers.

Unprotected computers

Unprotected computers are easy targets for viruses and other malicious codes used by cyber criminals to gain access to personal and financial information. On the other end, online vendors have to protect their computers, too, against attackers who may access their customer databases.  We have all seen how that has worked out lately. More and more big-box retailers have been hacked. It’s all over the news everyday.

Fake sites and email messages

In the virtual online world, a site (or an online store) can be faked by cyber criminals, with no one the wiser. These fake sites mimic the legitimate ones and capture the business, at least until they are caught or noticed.

Charities have also been misrepresented, especially during natural disasters or holiday seasons where people pour in donation money and aid. Most often, though, these attackers collect information for their own illegal use.

Cyber safety measures

Maintaining an up-to-date anti-virus program, a firewall and anti-spyware is an essential three-pronged first line of defense in cyber security. They protect you against viruses and Trojan horses that may steal or modify your data and make your computer vulnerable. Spyware may also give the attackers access to your data.

Updated browser

Browsers are the gateway between your computer and the internet. Enable the option of automatic updates to your computer so that the operating programs and utilities are up to date.

It is likewise important to check the default settings of your computer and apply the highest level of security. This applies primarily to browsers, email clients, etc. because these are the connectors to the Internet.

Reputable vendors

This is where care should be taken because cyber criminals are very good at mimicking the sites of legitimate vendors to make it appear genuine. You need to verify their legitimacy before supplying any information. Keep the phone numbers and the physical addresses of these vendors which you can use in case of problems.

Security features and private policies

As always, passwords and other security features add protection, if correctly used. Check the site’s privacy policy before giving out personal or financial information. You have to understand how your information is stored and used.

Encrypted information

Make sure the information you give out is encrypted. To check if it is, see if it includes a URL that begins with “https:” instead of “http:” and has a padlock icon. If the padlock is closed, the information is encrypted. Know where the padlock icon is located in your favorite browser since some attackers use fake padlock icons to trick users.  There is special keyboard encryption software available now that you should have on every device you use.

Use your credit card

Credit card charges have laws that limit your liability in case of fraud. This may not be the case for your debit card. Because debit cards draw money directly from your bank account, unauthorized withdrawals could leave you penniless. Needless to say, a record of your purchases should be kept aside. Report immediately any discrepancy.

Shopping online is truly a time-saving, hassle-free, and fun way of buying whatever you want on the internet. The presence of the ubiquitous cyber criminals stalking at every cyber corner necessitates the need of cyber security.  Make sure you are protected with credit monitoring.

Your cyber-health is your responsibility.