Ways to stay safe when browsing and shopping online
The first step is to make sure that your PC’s operating system or 3rd party security software has activated when switching on your computer.
Your Anti-virus software should always be kept up to date with the latest updates against new threats. Some of the better security software products require an annual fee for this service. Regular updates will help protect you from downloading malware and spyware or viruses that may adversely affect your PC’s performance, or worse still, compromise security of personal information. A firewall, spam blocker, or any other security applications you have installed should be set to start running in the background as soon as your computer boots up.
Recommended security software includes:
Panda Internet Security (anti-virus + additional security features)
Zonealarm (internet security suite)
Windows based PC’s using Vista and XP have their own built in firewalls but are more prone to attacks by hackers than the Apple mac computers and should always have their security protection set to come on automatically.
Security is always an issue when conducting transactions over the internet.
A large percentage of electronic commerce (or ‘eCommerce’ as it is commonly known) is conducted entirely electronically for virtual items such as access to premium content on a website, but most electronic commerce involves the transportation of physical items in some way. Almost all big retailers have an eCommerce presence on the World Wide Web. It’s therefore important that when buying products this way that you do so in a secure and safe manner.
When shopping online it’s a good idea to use a specific credit card just for doing your Internet shopping. Most credit cards will offer you a degree of protection from fraudulent use. Also check the website you’re buying from displays "https" in the order form address. You can do this by looking in the address bar of the browser before entering and sending any personal and financial information over the internet. This will indicate the site is using SSL technology (Secure Sockets Layer) to encrypt your details and prevent unauthorised eyes from deciphering it.
When using credit cards it pays to review your accounts regularly. Keep a regular check on your credit-card and bank statements, either online or when you receive them. If you notice any suspicious charges or withdrawals then report it immediately to the bank or credit card company.
Be particularly careful about purchasing goods through online auctions. There are many scams being carried out by unscrupulous people who are happy to part you from your money without providing you with the goods you expect.
Read carefully the rules and security advice that each auction provides for buyers and sellers.
Also be wary of ‘phishing’ e-mails. Phishing is the criminally fraudulent process of masquerading as an official company or organisation in order to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details or banking details. Phishing is usually carried out by e-mail or instant messaging, and it often directs users to enter details at a fake website whose appearance and URL look and feel almost identical to the legitimate one.
No matter how official an e-mail message looks, don’t be tempted to send your personal information this way. Only access your online accounts by using the official log-in page which you should always keep bookmarked for quick and easy reference.
When setting up online accounts avoid using the same password for all your accounts. Use different passwords for each one, preferably using eight or more digits for added security. Using a mixture of letters and numbers is the best way to prevent others guessing what your password is. If you have many accounts and you find it diffiult to remember your passwords then keep an abbreviated record of each account that only you will recognise and keep it in a secure place.