Keeping safe while you shop

Chris Petty, managing director of Cornerstone Business Solutions, shares his tips for protecting your cybersecurity while shopping online…

The majority of us have spent more time behind our computers and one of the reasons Amazon is among the world’s biggest companies is because we have also taken to online shopping. Everything, as you all know, is available online.

We have talked about cybersecurity on your company’s network in the past but have not covered our normal day-to-day requirements – for example, shopping.

Whether it’s shopping for the festive period, the January sales or doing your weekly shop, I thought I’d offer some cybersecurity tips to try to make it an enjoyable and less scary experience.

1. Make sure the website is secure
The most important thing when entering your credit card details online is to make sure this data is sent securely. This means that instead of your browser just sending the 16-digit card number in the open it is encrypted, so no one sniffing network traffic can intercept it. There’s an easy way to check this in web browsers, which all have a way of showing you that a secure HTTPS connection has been made. In general, web browsers display a padlock icon. Above you can see how this looks in Safari, Chrome and Firefox.

2. Use Secure Passwords
Most retail websites require you to create an account when you make your first purchase. You enter your name, address, phone number and payment information. The website then asks you to enter a password. Make sure to use a secure,unique password for each website. Don’t use the same password you use for other websites – if someone gets hold of that password by hacking one company’s servers, they’ll try to use it on other major merchants’ websites. And if those websites have stored your credit card number, cybercriminals will be able to make purchases with your cash!

3. Never shop over public wi-fi
Shopping while logged on to public wi-fi is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Hackers and cyber-spies love hanging around unsecured networks and using public wi-fi to do online shopping is a sure way to get your credit card information stolen.

4. Make purchases with credit cards instead of debit cards
Credit cards offer a safer way to shop than debit cards. Credit cards are not linked to your accounts, unlike debit cards. This means that even if your credit card information is stolen, the hacker won’t be able to access your other accounts. Better still, use PayPal. I’m not pushing PayPal over other payment systems, but it does offer additional security. PayPal doesn’t send the credit card number to the website, it simply confirms that the payment was made. Just make sure that when you are sent to a PayPal payment page, it really is PayPal.

5. Beware of unbelievably good offers
If you see an online offer that seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Avoid these offers at all cost as they are most likely attempts by cybercriminals to lure you in and steal your information. These scams have increased in number because crooks know especially in the current situation that we are all looking for the best deals we can get their hands on.

Online shopping is a safe and enjoyable experience for the majority of the time. Being careful will ensure you don’t have any unwanted experiences.

I’ve personally always preferred online shopping – no queues, no traffic jams, no bad weather and no long arms carrying lots of bags.

At the moment we don’t know which shops will be open, unfortunately, but we can be certain their e-commerce websites will be in full swing. So turn on your device, get comfy, pour yourself a glass of something nice and get shopping!