Winter is just around the corner, and that means many of us will be making purchases online to avoid large crowds and busy traffic in the run up to Christmas. While internet shopping has made our lives easier, the large amount of sensitive information we share online could expose us to online risks.

Why protect yourself when shopping online?

Whether you know it or not, you already benefit from security features developed to help protect personal data like passwords, usernames and credit card numbers. However, ask yourself the question – How often do I check the online security status of a preferred online retailer before I shop?

Cybercriminals are more sophisticated today than ever before. Online threats and data breaches are not only limited to large corporations — anyone on the Internet can fall victim so it’s important to know what to look for to ensure a safe online shopping experience.

Tips for a secure shopping experience

  1. Keep your browser is up to date
    Always update your browser updated to the current version. By doing this, vulnerabilities that may have been found in previous versions are likely to have been identified and patched.
  2. Always look for “HTTPS”
    Before entering any confidential information, make sure that the URL in your browser address bar turns green or begins with “HTTPS” and not “HTTP”. These are indicators that your 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 helps protect online transactions by keeping data in transit confidential through encryption. In other words, your information is encoded and not visible to hackers.
  3. Understand the privacy policy of the website
    Before you input any information to a site, understand the company’s privacy policy and how your personal data will be used. Know what information is being collected, how this data will be used and who will have access to it. Some websites may even give you the choice to opt out of sharing information. The website should provide a point of contact if you have any questions. Disclosing your personal information could expose you to risks of having your identity stolen.
  4. Learn to spot phishing attempts and questionable deals
    During the winter season you could receive emails advertising unbelievable deals. Have your guard up for emails and text messages advertising big offers that seem too good to be true — most likely, they are! Although spam emails can seem harmless, always avoid clicking on links and downloading files from any unknown sources. Phishing emails and websites can often contain typos or spelling and grammatical mistakes. If you receive an email requesting to “verify” your confidential information, don’t respond!
  5. Create strong passwords
    Always use strong passwords made up of numbers, letters and symbols. Never use the same password for multiple accounts and update them regularly.
  6. Use a VPN on public Wi-Fi
    Public Wi-Fi connections are often unencrypted and unsecured, leaving you vulnerable to cybercriminals. When connecting to a public network, always use a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN will encrypt the data you send and receive, shielding it from hackers or cybercriminals who may want to steal it.
  7. Install trusted security
    Using a reputable security solution to protect your information is one of the most important ways to stay safe online and keeping it updated will ensure you’re protected from the latest threats. In today’s digital world, simply having Antivirus on your PC is not enough to keep you secure. Products such as Norton Security can help protect your PC, laptop, smartphone and tablet devices from the latest viruses, malware, ransomware, spyware and hacking attempts by giving you a range of easy to use settings to control your security..

Online shopping can be a convenient and enjoyable way to see what’s on offer, make comparisons, find great deals and buy that special gift that the local shop doesn’t stock. However, it’s also a favourite hunting ground for cybercriminals, so you need to be prepared. Taking the steps above should help keep your money and your personal information out of the hands of cybercrooks while you shop – so you don’t get more than you bargained for.

Now you can surf, bank, shop and communicate online with peace of mind that your most sensitive information stays private!