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How to Stay Safe when Shopping Online

Online shopping has been a godsend for most people who don’t like going to the local store. The only problem here is safety: how safe are you from hackers and cyber thieves looking to steal your banking details? Online threats are on the rise and getting more sophisticated each day. If you rely heavily on the internet for products and services, you need to make sure your system is secure and that you carefully monitor your online habits.

Safety is a Mindset

Your best defense against cybercrime is to remain vigilant. You have to think of online safety all the time until it becomes second nature to you. How often do you check a website’s URL, especially sites that deal in sensitive information? Before filling out a form and giving your credentials to a website, check the URL first if it’s encrypted. There should be a closed padlock with “https” next to it. If it’s plain “http”, your session isn’t encrypted and you are exposed.

You should also check the website you’re on for inconsistencies because of the rising incidents of phishing attacks using fake websites. In most cases, the website looks exactly like the original one, save for a deviation on the URL’s spelling. The good fakes are hard to spot, but if you know the real URL of the website, you can easily navigate out of there and report it.

Tools that can help keep you Safe while Shopping Online

Having a mindset geared towards safety is great, but you’re going to need tools to protect yourself. Windows has long since been the favorite target of hackers and cybercriminals, with most of the written malware designed to run on any computer running a Windows OS. If you have a Windows system, you need to install antivirus software, a firewall and ad-blocking/anti-tracking software to harden your browser.

  • Antivirus Software – There are many free options you can try that do the job well. Some are annoying and keep on reminding you to purchase the paid version, but other than that the top programs can help keep your system clean and virus free. Look for antivirus software that consistently top the independent antivirus testing done by private security facilities such as AV TEST, ISCA Labs and AV Comparatives.
  • Firewall – Windows has a built in firewall and is adequate in most cases, but if you want something a little more robust, you can try the free firewall offerings from Comodo and ZoneAlarm. These firewalls are top of the line and will protect your system for outside threats. Complete security suites are also a good option because they’re all-in-one security programs that have everything you need, including a firewall and an antivirus. The best ones are a little pricey, so do your research and choose the most cost effective one.
  • Browser and Tracking Protection – Your browser is usually the weakest link that cyber criminals love to exploit. The easiest ways to compromise your system is to go to a website infected with malware, download an .exe file that installs malware to your system, malware embedded in videos and images you grab off the web and phishing websites. A lot of the ads on web pages also contain malware, so it’s best to install an adblocker to your browser to prevent the ads from showing in the first place.

Imagine purchasing some outfits online, and getting ads about different types and brands of outfits on any website you go to. How annoying is that? Ad blockers and tracking protection help shield you from this intrusive kind of advertising. Browsers such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have addons that can help protect you online.

Nothing beats the convenience of online shopping. Sites like Amazon have almost everything you’ll ever need, including those hard-to-find, unique items you won’t find in a brick and mortar store. Throw in free shipping, no checkout lines and no driving make this an appealing way to shop. Just remember to always be vigilant, use best practices in security to secure your system from cyber threats and keep your information safe at all times.



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