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6 tips for safer online shopping

25 Dezember 2021

From 1994, when the first online transaction took place, to recent years, when almost two billion people shop online annually, e-commerce developed into a trillion-dollar industry. The coronavirus pandemic accelerated its growth and led more people to shop online. In June 2020, e-commerce platforms worldwide reached a record of 22 billion visits based on monthly figures. With some countries at least partially in lockdowns, the number of online shoppers and the volume of online purchases are expected to grow even more. Shoppers are turning to e-commerce platforms not only for fashion and tech, as they used to in previous years, but also for groceries and everyday items. On a global level, it is expected that 63% of the world’s population will rely on online shopping by 2025, according to Statista.

Online shopping: cyberthreats

While the advantages of online shopping are clear, online privacy and security risks are less well-known. Online shoppers are often targeted by cybercriminals, especially during the shopping season. Caught up in the shopping frenzy and rushing to get the best deals, online shoppers might overlook the warning signs of online scams. Cybercriminals attempt to steal personal data, login credentials, or spread malware. The most common cyberthreats are phishing, data theft, and spam.

Phishing

Phishing is one of the most common cyberthreats online shoppers face. Phishing scams spread malware through malicious URLs, which can be spread via fake shopping sites, within email, or direct messages.

One easy way to figure out if the page is real or a phishing one is the URL. This is why you should always scrutinize the link and, if you are not 100% sure, don’t click.

If you receive an email about a delivery for example, the goal might be to send you to another page, which is where checking the URL becomes so important. Do not under any circumstances pay any amount of money for a missed delivery or taxes outstanding, for example, if you have not verified that the mail or text message you received are legit. And with so much online shopping at this time of year, keep track of what deliveries you are expecting and the company delivering to you, so you can focus on packages you’re due and whether there’s ever a need to pay customs or taxes.

Data theft

Attackers can easily intercept transactions if the online shop does not use encryption. The other risk is that they could add malicious scripts, such as keyloggers, to access credit card details given in the checkout form. Last year for example, 2,000 online shops using an older version of Magento were hacked. Magento, a popular open-source software for online shops, powers more than 100,000 online stores worldwide. The e-commerce platforms that failed to keep up with the Magento software updates were an easy target for hackers.

Spam

In the rush to get discounted products, online shoppers may skip reading the terms and conditions. If you quickly agree with all the terms, you might allow the shop to share your data with business partners, advertisers, and other organizations. Besides sharing your data, you also become a target for spam. Without always realizing it, you allow many other businesses to contact you and send offers, and your inbox might soon get clogged.

Tips for safer online shopping

1. Shop from trusted vendors

Chances of getting scammed are lower if you shop on reputable e-commerce platforms that you know and trust. However, make sure you are accessing the right online shop. A typo in the address bar might take you to a fake site that looks similar to the one you’re looking for, but it’s actually a site designed to steal your personal data. Setting up fake sites is one of the most common phishing scams.

2. Watch out for phishing scams

Phishing comes in many forms: fake sites, emails with phishing links, posts on social media promoting deals that are too good to be true. When a deal sounds too good to be true, you need to be vigilant and carefully check all the details. Scammers often use time pressure to convince shoppers that they need to purchase the product immediately, without checking the fine print.

3. Vet new online shops 

If you do find a great deal available in an online shop you’ve never heard of before, take some time to do a quick background check. Make sure the site uses a secure HTTPS protocol. Second, inspect the site’s SSL certificate to ensure the site is legitimate.

Every secure site that uses encryption has an SSL certificate. To view it, click on the padlock icon in the address bar. In Chrome and Safari, click on View certificate. In Firefox, click on Connection Security and then on More information. The name on the certificate should correspond to the organization that owns the site, and it should be issued by a trusted authority, such as VeriSign, Thwate, and Entrust. You can look up the name of the organization that issues the certificate if you have doubts.

4. Avoid using public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi can be unsafe, and you should generally avoid using it for any activities. However, for online shopping, online banking, and other activities that involve sharing sensitive data, such as credit card details, you shouldn’t ever use public Wi-Fi. While it might be convenient to shop on the go, remember that cybercriminals can easily intercept your data if you use public Wi-Fi.

5. Use a VPN

If you have no other choice than to use a public Wi-Fi connection, you should help secure your data sent and received over public Wi-Fi connection with a VPN. A VPN masks your IP address and creates a tunneling protocol between your local network and the server you are trying to access, encrypting your data in transition. Other users and even the Internet Service Provider won’t be able to track your activities online with a VPN.

In addition to enhanced security and online privacy, there’s another key advantage of using a VPN for online shopping: you might get better deals. You could choose to buy the items on your shopping list from a different country, where prices are lower, or even get access to deals that are not shown in your area.

6. Set dedicated passwords

As you need to register and create a profile in each online shop, the temptation to reuse passwords is high. Don’t fall prey to it - take the time to set a unique password for each of your accounts. If you run out of ideas for unique passwords, use a password manager. It normally helps you generate unique passwords, that are almost impossible to hack. You can save as many passwords as you like and log in instantly to all your favourite shops
by remembering only one master password.

Some shops also give you the option to log in with another account, such as your Facebook or Google account. This might seem easy and convenient, but you should remember that by doing this, you give access to your public profile, email, maybe even your contact list. To limit the amount of personal data you spread online, it’s best to create separate accounts for each service you use. With a password manager, keeping all your accounts organized will be a breeze.


Disclaimers and references:
Symantec Corporation, the world’s leading cyber security company, allows organizations, governments, and people to secure their most important data wherever it lives. More than 50 million people and families rely on Symantec’s Norton and LifeLock comprehensive digital safety platform to help protect their personal information, devices, home networks, and identities.

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