Online shopping has only grown in popularity over the years, and millions of people will take to the Internet for their holiday shopping this year.
Online shopping might offer the best convenience, but it is not without risks. The Internet is not as wholesome or honest a place as it might look. You should follow some guidelines to keep yourself safe while shopping online, particularly during the holiday season when scammers and other Internet criminals are doubling their efforts. Thankfully, protecting yourself online is not an overly involved process, and you do not need special technical ability to stay protected online this holiday season. From simple observational security lessons to 3rd party shipping insurance to protect your packages or token-based complex password management, there are many ways to protect yourself. Here are the best tips and tricks to follow for safe online shopping.
HTTPS Is Strongly Preferred
If you are not used to Internet practices or security measures, you might never look at the start of the URLs you click on. For years, HTTP was the only format, but HTTPS added increased security to the mix. Now HTTPS is considered the standard or minimum for all websites as the outdated HTTP is vulnerable to man-in-the-middle and eavesdropping attacks. Do not enter contact or payment information on websites that are not HTTPS to protect yourself and not reward site holders for using outdated and insecure methods. Thankfully, HTTPS has been widely adopted, and most commonly used websites are all HTTPS.
Keep Ignoring Pop-Ups
There is unwritten Internet language that will help guide you around common issues like pop-ups. The age-old advice of ignoring or closing pop-up windows still holds true today as most pop-ups are nothing more than low-effort scams. Any pop-ups offering cash, rewards, or gift cards if you complete a survey or falsely warning you that you need to buy virus removal software or clean your infected computer are all scams you can confidently ignore. Learning the Internet’s hidden languages can take time, but the more you learn about these types of scams and traps, the faster you will be able to identify fishy online content and keep yourself safe.
Proper Antivirus Software
Even with the best Internet knowledge and HTTPS URLs, it is still good to have antivirus software running in the background. Thankfully, there is a broad market of consumer-level antivirus software with a variety of features and price points to suit your needs. These programs monitor your computer for suspicious or malicious activity, with some software offering automatic alerts and file quarantine options. Most computers come with default antivirus and firewalls, but adding a 3rd party software is a good practice that doesn’t cost much and won’t drastically impact your system’s performance.
Far too many people use the same simple, easy to remember password across multiple websites and accounts. Don’t do this. Simple or common passwords like the infamous “password123” are easy for a computer to brute force. Even using the same randomly generated 16 character password for every site and account is a bad idea because once one account is compromised, they all are. Instead of creating secure and complex passwords that you must remember individually, use a password manager. Most popular password managers use a token system, so the password manager company never sees your passwords, which means your passwords are as safe as digitally possible. You can use autofill options on password managers, so you don’t have to type in a complex password either. There is a range of different password managers with a range of features and prices. Many password managers have a free or demo version you can try before buying the full product.
Don’t Shop On Public Wifi
Most people are happy to use public wifi while they are out running errands or killing time in public. While public wifi is an incredible convenience, you should not use it for online shopping. Public wifi networks are typically unsecured and vulnerable to attacks. You should only enter your payment and contact information over a private and secure network like your home password-protected wifi connection. Your home connection might not let you shop while in line at the store, but it is far safer and lowers the risk of your information being stolen.
Online shopping is a modern staple, and millions of people will be shopping online this holiday season. However, just because shopping online is easy doesn’t mean it is always safe. Use HTTPS websites, do not engage with pop-ups, invest in a proper antivirus software from a trusted 3rd party, use a password manager to handle complex and unique passwords for every account, and don’t shop on public wifi to stay safe while shopping online this holiday season.