Staying Safe While Shopping Online

As working from home has become part of our normal working environment, all organisations must help their staff become more aware of the risks of cyber attacks and the very real damage they can cause to them personally and to their employers.

Online shopping can be convenient, but it is also a field open to huge risk and that risk can affect not just your personal information or financial data but can open the window to attacks on your employer's data through malware such as ransomware and phishing attacks.

As is the case whenever you may be sharing information online, it’s necessary to be aware that payment methods, personal details and other sensitive data can all be possible cyber-security risks.

Be mindful of these precautions to stay safe while enjoying the benefits of online shopping:

  • Research before shopping. Many people may be hesitant to purchase items from retail locations or salespeople they are not familiar with. The same caution should apply to online shopping. Avoid making purchases from unfamiliar websites until research has shown that they are legitimate. Be particularly cautious of emails or texts with links about special offers, as these may lead to scam websites.
  • Use safe payment methods. Purchasing items online with credit cards may provide extra layers of protection. Most major credit card providers protect online purchases and may provide refunds. Meanwhile, although a refund claim may still be possible, debit card payments are not covered by section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. Furthermore, having the payment information of a debit card stolen may compromise your bank account. Online platforms—such as PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay—can also provide greater cyber-security due to retailers not even having access to payment information.
  • Browse safely. It’s imperative to ensure your connection is secure when shopping online. While using an internet browser, check that websites are secure. This is indicated by a padlock icon to the left of the URL bar. In addition, a secure connection will also begin with ‘HTTPS’ as opposed to only ‘HTTP’.
  • Stay private. Although online purchases need a certain amount of personal information to be revealed, you can protect yourself by limiting the data you provide to what is required. Mandatory details—such as delivery address and payment information—will typically be marked with an asterisk. Avoid providing further information. Furthermore, if you do not plan to become a frequent shopper at this particular retailer, do not create a permanent account.
  • Keep accounts secure. Follow general cyber-security guidance when creating accounts or completing purchases. This means using strong passwords that you do not already use for other services or websites. If possible, make sure that you also turn on two-factor authentication.

For more cyber-security tips, contact our risk management division in Belfast today.