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Online Security Top Tips: Buyer Beware

Peter Carlisle, Vice President of nCipher Security, shares his Top Tips for shopping online on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

  1. Make sure you use trusted websites for your online shopping. Web URLs that start with HTTPS denote a secure protocol. The ‘S’ stands for secure and is the guarantee that all communications between the browser and the website are encrypted.
  2. Use payment gateways for purchases. Many sites use payment gateways that are designed to protect credit card, debit card or PayPal payment methods by never revealing your credit card information to the merchant. PayPal is regarded as one of the most secure payment methods, but it is recommended that for online payments you connect your PayPal account to your credit card, rather than your debit card, for added fraud protection. Similar services like Amazon Pay connect your identity with your credit card information, again ensuring a safe payment environment. Credit card companies may also provide an additional layer of security, such as Visa Secure, that confirms your identity when you make an online purchase.


  1. Ensure your desktop, laptop and mobile devices are running up-to-date software. Making sure the apps you use for payments, in-app purchasing, even the operating systems themselves, are fully updated is a simple but critical step. Our research shows that less than one third (29%) of UK consumers keep connected devices secure by checking for software updates.


  1. Enable multi-factor authentication. More and more online services and apps require multi-factor authentication, typically something you know (such as a password) and something you have (such as code that’s been texted to you). It’s important to opt in whenever a service offers you the added security of multi-factor authentication.


  1. Make sure you’re not using unsecure public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi is often not secure, in which case any data transmitted is at risk of being intercepted. Equally, be very careful when using shared computers, as they may have malware, skimming devices or vulnerabilities and, in many cases, will not be updated with the latest security patches.


  1. Be wary of malware on retailers’ sites. If you see a deal from a company you have never heard of or, worse, make the mistake of going to a site that looks like your favourite ecommerce site (but actually isn’t), check the URL to make sure you are on the right site. Always prioritise using well known ecommerce companies that have a reputation for strong security.


  1. Don’t ‘stand in the checkout line’ and simultaneously look at other products.Just as you wouldn’t leave your credit card with the cashier in a shop and then go shopping for other goods, you shouldn’t leave your payment details open online and then surf for other products.  Websites have a number of links for advertising or information that, in rare cases, can be used for malicious purposes.


  1. Always be wary of emails or sites that ask for personal information. If an email asks you to click on a link or input information, check the URL to ensure it is HTTPS and roll over the link with your mouse to ensure the site you are clicking on matches where you expect to go. If just one letter or number is different, you could end up on a fraudulent site set up to steal your information.  If in doubt, type in the URL for the main site, i.e. Amazon, and go to the relevant section for tracking packages or changing a password, for example.