Can you shop online safely?

In our modern society, shopping and the Internet go together like bacon and eggs. After all, why leave home when you could be eating said food items and shopping simultaneously? To this end, shopping online is one of the most convenient things that modern technology has brought to us.

What makes online shopping so attractive is that it is convenient and it is instant. But is it secure? Yes and no. Remember, online security is only as good as the amount of effort expended and the systems put in place by the merchant to ensure you enjoy a secure experience.

“In recent years, shopping online has become much more convenient via mobile payment solutions,” states Gregory Anderson, country manager at Trend Micro South Africa. “However it’s important to note that when you are dashing through multiple sites on the Web from the comfort of your armchair, your accounts and financial transactions could be compromised by countless prying eyes. Due to the nature of e-commerce and the thousands of options for online shops, it can sometimes be hard to tell if you’re dealing with a legitimate merchant or a bogus one.”

According to Anderson, shopping online bears the same perils as shopping in store. You as an individual can’t rely on the merchant to shoulder all the risk; you need to become just as savvy as you would be if you were shopping in modern-day Hillbrow. What’s more, while we are all keen to secure our credit card information, online shopping doesn’t just pose a threat to your credit details but to your general privacy too.

Now that data breaches and incidents of hacking and identity theft are becoming more common, online shoppers should protect themselves against likely attacks that could threaten their privacy. There are a number of different methods that can be used to invade a user’s privacy and, sooner or later, an unaware user is bound to run into threats such as phishing, online scams, spam, Internet fraud and malicious URLs.
Here are a few general tips on how to secure and maintain your privacy and security when shopping online:

• Double-check URLs – if you hadn’t already bookmarked your favorite shopping site’s payment page and still rely on typing in names, always double check the URL. Cybercriminals can easily replace payment pages and apps with fake ones. One way to tell if a site is secure is by checking the security lock indicator (HTTPS instead of HTTP). HTTPS is more secure.

• Use an official online shopping app – if you’re an avid mobile shopper, make sure to use the official online shopping app and avoid third-party apps for secure transactions.

• Always use strong and secure passwords – attackers can easily hack online accounts, including banking and social media accounts. Since these accounts contain sensitive and personal details, it’s important that you use unique hard-to-crack passwords across all devices and change them regularly.

• Use a secure network – if you’re using a mobile device to pay, make sure that you are using the official payment app, and that you’re accessing a secure and private network.

• Think before you click – being scammed online could translate to an eventual invasion of your privacy. Before you click on unverified posts, messages or ads, think twice and stay away from suspicious-looking offers. They’re most likely used as bait to lead you to phishing sites. Check with official sites rather than relying on social media posts.

“Shopping online can be safe. But just be alert and be aware. Web threats are no longer limited to malware and scams. Attackers know that the more you perform any online activities, the more you increase the risk of revealing information about yourself – especially when you’re looking to make a purchase. Searching for items alone could lead you from one Web site to another, which increases the chance of stumbling upon a malicious one.

“So set yourself a small regime of ensuring the above each time you enter a new site. If you can do that, you will almost be assured of shopping securely and with the peace of mind you crave,” Anderson concludes.

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