Online shopping has become one of the most popular ways for individuals to buy their everyday essential products, groceries and even gifts for family and friends. With millions of items being purchased online each day, the chance of encountering a cyberattack or cyber scam dramatically increases. According to optinmonster.com, “Online shopping is growing so fast that the global online shopping market size is predicted to hit 4 trillion in 2020.” Although cybercrime is relevant, there are many best practices we must understand to better protect our data and devices.
A cyberattack is any type of attack that targets a device, system, infrastructure or network. Many cyberattacks result in stolen data, unauthorized functions and even dangerous data breaches. While online shopping, it’s very important to analyze the website you are purchasing from.
To begin analyzing a website start by checking the URL, does it begin with https versus http? This is the first of many online safety tips to perform to ensure a website is secure. An SSL certificate (the s or lock icon shown in the URL) is acquired through a validation process and signifies all site data is secure as it exchanges between the device and the site’s server.
To confirm a company is real, look for reputable signs that provide legitimacy:
- Verify a physical company address and phone number is listed within a company’s contact information.
- Ensure a company has return, exchange and shipping policies in place – many cyber scammers sell products to individuals they may never receive.
- Before clicking an offer or coupon pop up, ensure the offer is legitimate by cross referencing the offer listed on the company website.
- Read previous customer reviews to learn more about the company’s customer service and overall consumer experience.
- Evaluate the checkout process – if a company asks to collect more information than the standard billing and shipping information, do not place the order.
Even after analyzing a website for legitimacy, be sure to always follow these additional best practices while online:
- Perform continuous updates on all devices – here is a reminder to never ignore a software update! Protect your data from cyber hackers and improve your devices performance by continuously updating your software. Make sure all applications on devices such as phones, laptops and tablets stay updated as well.
- Create a unique password for each platform – be sure to create long, and unique passwords for all personal and work accounts. Pairing lengthy passwords with a multifactor authorization will keep your data both safe and secure.
- Keep tabs on all apps – ensure data is safe and secure by only downloading from trustworthy sources. Browse all device settings and review each applications permission, including which apps track the device location and receives access to personal information.
- Connect to a secure network – monitor each session while connected to public Wi-Fi. Avoid accessing an email or financial account on public Wi-Fi as this connection is not safe nor secure in protecting your data.
As online shopping continues to expand, the ability to browse products and complete transactions will only become more user friendly. Be sure to verify a company’s legitimacy before purchasing a product or service and keep devices up to date with protective passwords while on secure networks. Although all online activities come with risks, consumers who practice these cybersecurity precautions can better avoid the threat of cyberattacks and cyber scams.
Article by: Caitlin MacWilliams, Marketing Specialist, Smart IS International