What Online Shoppers Need to Know About Cyber Crime

Monday, August 25, 2014

Whether you buy from a well-known and credible online store or from an unknown newcomer, the risk of cybercrime remains a consistent threat.

To protect yourself, keep the following in mind:

cyber crime

  • Many main street businesses have also been hit by computer malware that copied all their customers' personal information, so cybercrime is not limited only to online stores. If a main street shop keeps their customers' payment information on a computer that is sometimes linked to the internet, it is at least in principle possible for hackers to lay their hands on it. The issue is, thus, not so much whether you shop online or offline, but whether the store from which you buy has security and data protection measures in place. Ask them for this information. You have the right to know.

  • Install security software on all your devices, including your phones. Never use wifi hotspots without utilizing a password-protected virtual private network. These measures ensure that no malware can intercept your personal and credit card information when you send it to the online store during the payment process.

  • Protect your online store accounts with strong passwords. Long passwords are much harder for a hacker's computer to break, and passwords that use characters, numbers and other characters (like @ and &) are almost impossible. Work out such complex passwords and either store them off your device or behind strong antivirus software. 

  • Buy from a store only if it encrypts your interaction with it. This is indicated by a closed padlock on the browser's address bar and an address that starts with https. Https is not fully secure either, as the recent Heartbleed Bug proves, but it is better than an unencrypted connection.

  • Visit an online store by typing the address into the browser, not through a link you find in an email or on a social network. 

  • Store your credit card details on as few websites as possible. The largest international payment services are PayPal and Google Checkout, and they both spend considerable resources to secure your information. All credible online dealers allow you to pay through these third-party services, so you do not have to spread your credit card and personal details all over the internet.

  • Another benefit of large third-party payment services is their consumer protection programs. For example, you pay money into the vender's PayPal account upon purchase, but PayPal allows the vender to withdraw that money only after 30 days.

With these measures in place, you are as safe as it is possible to be online.