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Shoppers warned of increased cyber risk as online shopping takes over

By Shannon Williams
Mon 14 Nov 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Online shopping has for the first time outweighed shopping in stores this year, according to VPN service provider NordVPN.

Consumers are now making 51% of their shopping online, compared to 48% in 2015.

However, when people start shopping for their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, kicking off the Christmas shopping season, online hackers start their busy season, too.

Nearly half (48%) of consumers who shopped online in the past year have experienced payment fraud - which is nearly 80 million people, NordVPN says.

“Many online shops and their clients are still not aware of simple safety protocols as we are entering deeper into all-digital age,” the company explains.

According to NordVPN, online stores are huge sites of targeted attacks by hackers who try to steal users’ financial details and then use it for money laundering or other schemes.

“There have been too many cases where an innocent user was tricked into believing that they were entering the credit card details on a secure online store while in reality the user was providing their details to a hacker who can then use them to empty someone’s entire life savings,” it says.

There are many ways online shopping can become hazardous to any user. For example, a shopping website may be a spoofed fraudulent website set up by hackers to steal data. Or the online store where one shops may not be using a secure encryption protocol to ensure that their customers’ details are safe during the payment process. Or a customer’s account on the shopping site may get compromised, giving the hacker access to the account.

“In order to stay safe when shopping online, there are simple tips everyone should know about,” says NordVPN.

1. https

The first thing you should always see while making an online payment is whether the payment gateway has an https URL. The ‘s’ in the URL means that it is a secure protocol and your data is encrypted properly.

2. Be wary

Being vigilant can help you a lot in the task of shopping online securely. Whenever a website requests for more information than is usually required, like your Social Service number or any other kind of personal information, it usually spells fraud. You should always be cautious before giving your personal or financial details anywhere on the internet.

3. Stay away from public terminals

It cannot be stressed enough how dangerous it is to share your personal or financial information with any website or any person over the internet while using a public internet connection. Public Wi-Fi networks are common hunting grounds for attackers and data snoopers who try to access your personal information and use it for their benefit on your expense. Since public networks have negligible security, you should try and avoid using them while making online payments. If you must do online transactions while using a public network, then you have to use a VPN to stay safe.

4. Use a VPN

VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) encrypt all the data you share across the Internet on any website. They are the best security mechanism you can employ to make sure the data you share over the internet is safe from prying eyes and remains confidential. NordVPN is one of the most advanced VPNs on the market that uses the latest encryption protocols. From the moment a user turns on NordVPN, their Internet data becomes encrypted. It becomes invisible to third party snoopers or hackers and even NordVPN. Being based in Panama, which is Internet-friendly country and does not require data storage or reporting, NordVPN keeps no user logs.

5. Stronger Passwords

Perhaps the most basic requirement for any online account set-up is using strong passwords. Weak passwords make it simple for hackers to break into your account and cause severe damage. It’s always advised to change passwords in order to stay safe online, and that means having to use a unique password for each site or account. A new app is 1Password for Families that allows a family to share passwords, credit cards, and other sensitive information. The app remembers everything, keeps the information safe and signs one into their favourite sites with one click.  

“The popularity of online shopping should not make consumers less cautious,” NordVPN says.

“The methods listed above can help anyone shop online securely. If something looks out of the ordinary and the deal looks too good to be true, it’s important to be very careful before clicking on suggested links.

“Every year, big online shopping periods, like Black Friday, Cyber Monday or Christmas, make online fraudsters more innovative, but education about fraud prevention and simple precaution can keep all shoppers safe,” the company adds.

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