Cyber Security Advice

21 Jan 2016, 09:23 AM Karen Ormiston

As technology evolves, online shopping grows in popularity; UK shoppers, for example, spent 5.3 million pounds an hour in November, 2015 online (ONS).

The growth in online shopping has however seen an increase in the activity of cybercriminals (Kapersky). This blog article outlines ways in which you can increase your online security in order to get the most out of online shopping whilst decreasing your chances of becoming victim to a cyber-attack.

  • Clean, updated machine

To help protect your web-connected devices from more commonly used malware and infections, it is advisable to keep them updated with the most current versions of virus protection programmes, software and apps.

  • Secure Wi-Fi connections

It is important to ensure your home Wi-Fi is password protected and that you limit the type of business you carry out over open Wi-Fi sites in public places for example, banking and online shopping. Although the public Wi-Fi may be password protected, it does not guarantee it is secure. 

  • Strong passwords

As well as avoiding passwords comprising dictionary words, ‘password’ itself or common keystrokes such as ‘qwerty’ and ‘1234’, it is advisable for passwords to have eight characters inclusive of both upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. It is also securer to use different passwords across critical sites meaning if one account falls victim to hackers, your other accounts are not easily accessed.

  • Two factor authentication

If available, using two factor authentication – a password backed up by a code linked to a mobile phone – is encouraged. In trying to access the account using a new device, a unique code is sent to you via text message. Hackers will subsequently need more than your password to access your account.

  • Know the site you are on

Misspelt words and easy to spot grammar mistakes in the URL or within the site itself, as well as cheap website design, are often indicators of fake sites which should be avoided.

Be aware of offers that seem too good to be true (they usually are) and this can indicate that the site may be selling illegal or pirated items.

When using a new site, it is also advisable to read the reviews on sites you already trust to determine whether others have found the site to be reliable or have had problems with it.

Reputable websites also have contact details which include a phone number and address should you need to contact them in the event of a problem.

  • Secure websites

When shopping online, on inputting your personal details, it is important to ensure the website you are using is secure:

-          The website should begin with ‘https://’ as opposed to ‘http://’. The ‘s’ stands for secure.

-          Secure websites are also illustrated by a padlock which is commonly found to the left of the website’s URL.

-          If you are using the latest version of our browser, the address bar of the name of the site owner will be highlighted in green on secure websites.

  • Protect your personal information

Be alert to what information is being collected about you; you only need to fill in the required information when paying for items online.

  • Safe payment options

Credit cards are safer than debits cards when shopping online as they allow buyers to seek a credit from the issuer if the product is not delivered or is not what was ordered.

  • Do not open anything unknown

Links in emails, posts or texts are often the ways cybercriminals try to steal your information or infect your devices; as such, do not click on any unsolicited links.

If you receive an offer that appears to be too good to be true, it probably is. Reputable websites and stores do not send you offers via email unless you have opted in to receive such information from them or their partners.

If you receive an email from a seemingly reputable source but are unsure of its legitimacy; for example, if you receive an email from what appears to be your bank requiring action from you, open your browser to access the bank’s website as opposed to clicking on the link. You can also phone the bank using the contact details found on their official website, as opposed to in the email you have been sent – if a contact number is listed in an email which you are suspicious of, never ring the number.

  • Security settings on email clients

In a similar vein to the above in terms of not opening anything unknown, it is important to ensure your email client does not automatically download images or other resources from the Internet. Though some are automatically configured not to, it is best to check.


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