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While online shopping has made our lives easier, the sensitive information we share when we shop on the Internet could expose us to online risks.



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The holiday countdown is underway, and that means many of us will be making purchases online to avoid large crowds and busy mall traffic. The season may be a lucrative time for online retailers, but cybercriminals see it as an opportunity to profit as well.

If you plan to do any online shopping this year, it’s important to know how to identify a secure online store. The best way to help protect yourself from cybercriminals is to be proactive about security features available online and learn how they work.

Why protect yourself when shopping online?

Whether you know it or not, you’ve already benefited from security features developed to help protect personal data like passwords, usernames, and credit card numbers. Websites designed by financial institutions, insurance companies and government agencies like the DMV usually contain sophisticated security features to help keep your private information safe from cybercriminals.

However, how often does one check the online security status of a preferred online retailer?

Cybercriminals are more sophisticated today than ever before. Online threats and data breaches are not limited to large corporations — anyone on the Internet can face online threats. For these reasons, it’s important to know what to look for to ensure a safe online shopping experience.

What are the top online shopping security features customers need?

Unless you know what to look for, identifying the security features of online retailers can be difficult. Always look for an SSL Certification, which you can verify in a few ways:

  • Look for the addition of an “S” to the “http://” at the beginning of a URL on pages where you enter a password or personal details. Some sites use SSL only on some parts of the site, like the homepage. But this doesn’t mean that the entire site is not secure. 
  • Search for visual cues that indicate a secure site, such as a lock symbol and
    green color in the address bar before you enter a credit card number or any confidential information. This indicates that your shopping session is secure and that the site is using encryption to protect your personal data. This protocol is known as SSL — Secure Socket Layer — encryption, and it protects online transactions by keeping data in transit confidential by encoding it. In other words, your information is not visible to cybercriminals.

What are other ways to be secure while shopping online?

While you’re shopping on a website, some of these security features may not be present. Here are some other tips on how to be safer while spreading the holiday cheer by buying gifts online.

  • Don’t open emails from unknown senders or click on links to “deals” that seem suspicious. During the holiday season a phishing attempt may come in the form of an email advertising a sale you won’t want to miss, but the links within the email may direct you to a fake website that was built to capture your personal information. Have your guard up for emails and text messages advertising holiday deals that seem too good to be true. Although spam emails may seem harmless, never click on links, or download files from unknown sources. Spam emails and bogus websites often contain typos or spelling and grammatical mistakes, so watch for those signs.
  • Install the latest version of your Internet browser to avoid security holes, which are other ways malware can sneak onto your device.
  • A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts your traffic so even if someone manages to eavesdrop, they’ll just see encrypted data when online. VPNs can turn public Wi-Fi into secured private connections.
  • Always use strong passwords, update them regularly, and never use the same password for multiple accounts. If a cybercriminal gets ahold of the password to one of your accounts, they could log in and order items with your stored credit card information. Keep your account safer with a strong password — “Santa123” won’t do the trick. One easy way to secure your accounts: Use a reputable password manager that will generate, store and autofill secure passwords for all your accounts.
  • Never make a purchase on public Wi-Fi.       You might be tempted to take your shopping spree to a coffee shop where you can sip on a peppermint mocha while you browse products. But with a little tech know-how, the person sitting a few tables away can easily intercept the data you send and receive. Shopping online usually means giving out information that an identity thief would love to grab, including your name, address, and credit card information. Bottom line: It’s never a good idea to do your holiday shopping on public Wi-Fi
  • If you are still unsure about the credibility of a website you can use Norton Safe Web or Trustpilot, free online tools that can help identify risky websites as you shop.
  • Lastly, beware of identity theft. You may not know right away if a criminal has obtained your financial information. Consider investing in an identity theft and cybersecurity protection service from a private anti-virus service. You may have this service available through your employee benefit package.

Recognizing that identity theft protection and cybersecurity benefits both workers and the organization, more and more employers are offering it as an employee benefit. Innovative benefit plans can help protect an employee’s identity, personal information, and personal devices from the myriad threats that an employee may face in their digitally connected home and workplace, and when using public Wi-Fi.

Shopping online is easy and convenient if you’re vigilant about Internet security. Checking with organizations like the Better Business Bureau (BBB) can also help weed out poorly managed online shopping sites. Knowing you're doing all you can to practice safe holiday online shopping can help you to relax and enjoy the season just a little bit more.

Editorial note: Written by a NortonLifeLock employee. Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.


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