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Tips to ensure your website is not bait this online shopping season

22 Nov 2016

It’s that time of the year where Australian shoppers can get the best deals online from sales events such as Click Frenzy, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. According to Adobe Digital Index, Australians will spend around $7 billion online in the lead-up to Christmas. With this much money on the line, what could make Australians' convenient online shopping experience turn into a real hassle?

While a late purchase delivery might make anyone sweat, a security breach or a cyberattack on a personal computer, tablet or smartphone resulting in stolen personal and financial information can ruin the holidays and wreak havoc on personal credit.

With a number of prominent sales events approaching, Australians are reminded to take extra precautions to ensure that they have a safe and secure online shopping experience. Here are some tips for safe online and mobile shopping to avoid the cyber security headaches this holiday season.

  • Make sure the device’s operating system, anti-virus and malware detection software is patched and up to date. In addition, ensure all browser and browser plug-ins (document viewers, music and video players and rich content applications), are patched and up-to-date. |  
  • Cafes and restaurants commonly offer free wireless Internet access. Do understand that untrusted networks may pose a threat as they introduce a variety of risks. An attacker may eavesdrop on information sent or received, resulting in a loss of confidentiality. Only use a trusted network when shopping online or performing any financial transactions.  
  • Always type the web address of shopping websites into a browser. Online ads and emails may direct the shopper to bogus sites designed by cyber criminals to extract personal information.  
  • When making online purchases, search for HTTPS in the URL window. The extra “S” after HTTP lets the shopper know that the website provides a layer of security.  
  • Be very cautious using websites, online ads or unsolicited emails with free offers or big discounts. Also, be sure not to click on links or attachments in emails, which could infect computers with malicious software.  
  • Make online purchases using a credit card with a small credit limit. This minimises a shopper’s potential exposure.  
  • Be wary of holiday greetings, news and pictures, with links or attachments. Verify first that the correspondent sent the email.  Bear in mind that a shopper’s friends could have had their email address book hijacked by hackers.  
  • Never respond to emails from a bank or any financial institution that asks for account or personal information. Financial institutions rarely ask customers to update or disclose information over email.  
  • Avoid using weak or default passwords for any online site. Best to use a different password for each site; store passwords securely and auto-generate new, strong passwords with a passport management tool like LastPass or KeePass.  
  • When possible, use a computer dedicated solely for accessing financial accounts, online purchases and paying bills. This computer should not be used for surfing the Web or for emailing, the primary vectors for infecting your computer and this computer should also be used on a trusted network.

While there is no “silver bullet’ to security, following the above steps should help shoppers and retailers avoid a gloomy shopping season.

Article by Simon Ractliffe, Director and GM for South Asia and Pacific at SecureWorks.

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