Online shopping this Christmas? This is why you need trusted protection
Christmas is just around the corner, and that means time to grab some online purchases to avoid the large crowds and busy shopping centre traffic. While online shopping has made our lives easier, the amount of sensitive information we share when we shop on the Internet could expose us to online risks.
The winter season may be a lucrative time for online retailers with their sales, but cybercriminals see the seasonal celebration as opportunities to profit as well.
If you plan on doing any online shopping this year, it’s important to know how to identify a secure online store. The best way to protect yourself from cybercriminals is to be proactive about security features available online and learn how they work.
Why should I protect my online activities?
Whether you know it or not, you’ve already benefited from security features developed to protect personal information like passwords, usernames and credit card numbers. Websites designed by financial institutions, insurance companies and government agencies usually contain sophisticated security features to help keep your private information safe from cyber espionage.
Most of us never even think about checking the online security status of a preferred brand or online retailer — and that’s because most of us take online security for granted. However, cyber attackers are more sophisticated today than ever before. Online threats and data breaches are not only limited to large corporations — anyone connected to the Internet can be a victim. For this reason, it’s important to know what to look for to ensure a safe online shopping experience.
What are the top security features customers need when shopping online?
Unless you know what to look for, you won’t be able to identify the security features of online retailers. Always look for an SSLCertification, which you can verify in a few ways:
- Look for the addition of an “S” to the “http://” at the beginning of a URL.
- Search for visual cues that indicate it’s a secure site, such as a lock symbol and green color in the address bar before you enter a credit card number or any confidential information. This indicates that your shopping session is secure and that the site is using encryption to protect your personal data. This protocol is known as SSL — Secure Socket Layer — encryption, and it protects online transactions by keeping data in transit confidential by encoding it. In other words, your information is not visible to hackers.
Other ways that will make you feel secure while shopping online
While you’re shopping on a website, some of the security features may not be present. Here are some other tips on how to stay safer while buying gifts for loved ones online.
- Don’t open emails from an unknown sender or click on links to “deals” that seem suspicious. During the Christmas season, a phishing attempt may come in the form of an email advertising a sale you won’t want to miss, but the links within the email could direct you to a fake website that was built to capture your personal information. Be on your guard for emails and text messages advertising unbelievable deals that seem too good to be true — most likely they are. Although spam emails may seem harmless, never ever click on links or download files if it’s an unknown source. Phishing emails and bogus websites often contain typos or spelling and grammatical mistakes, so watch for those signs.
- Install the latest version of your Internet browser and keep it updated to avoid security holes, which are other ways malware can sneak onto your device.
- Use a virtual private network (VPN) when you browse online. This encrypts your traffic so even if someone manages to eavesdrop, they’ll just see encrypted data. VPNs, like Norton Secure VPN, can turn public Wi-Fi into secured private connections.
- Ensure your purchases and transactions are taking place on a secure site. Scan the entire site for trust marks. Norton Secure Seal is a widely recognized trust mark that provides evidence that a retailer’s authenticity has been verified and the website is secured by Symantec.
- Use a trusted comprehensive Internet security solution such as Norton Security and ensure that it is always up to date.
- Beware of identity theft. You may not know right away if a criminal has obtained your financial information. You can be proactive by closely monitoring all of your financial accounts and signing up for text or email alerts if the institution offers them.
- Always use strong passwords, update them regularly, and never use the same password for multiple accounts. This is especially important for accounts that contain your personal information. Norton Identity Safe is a free tool you can use to manage your passwords.
- Finally, if you are still unsure about the credibility of a website you can use Norton Safe Web, a free online tool that can help identify risky websites as you shop.
Keep these security tips in mind the next time you decide to make an online purchase and enjoy the rest of the winter season with the added bonus of a great deal to make you smile.