5 Tips to protect personal data during online transactions

February 24th, 2021

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way people live, including the way we shop. Figures show that consumers have been shopping online more often since 2020, and experts believe the trend is likely here to stay. It isn’t surprising either; ordering the products you want without having to leave your home is convenient and it even reduces your risk of contracting COVID-19.

Online shopping, however, comes with its share of risks. In particular, eCommerce transactions require your name, address, payment information, and other personal data. These details are in demand among cybercriminals who want to cash in at your expense or use your information to commit fraudulent transactions or identity theft.

What steps should you take to protect personal data?
These tips to protect personal data will help minimize security risks when you make online transactions:

1. Secure your devices and internet connection
Make sure the computer or mobile devices you use for online purchases are equipped with cybersecurity tools like anti-malware software, a firewall, and a virtual private network. Encrypt their contents if you can too. On the off chance that you lose your gadgets, encryption will prevent anyone who finds them from accessing the personal data stored in the devices.

Avoid using public Wi-Fi and other unsecured wireless networks, such as the ones found in libraries, cafes, and airports. Data transmitted through public networks is rarely encrypted, making it vulnerable to thieves and eavesdroppers.

If you must visit an eCommerce site using a public network, look at the address bar on your web browser and ensure that the website starts with “https” instead of “http.” The former means any data that goes to and from the website is encrypted. As with lost devices, encrypted data cannot be accessed and read by unauthorized users even if they get stolen.

2. Strengthen your passwords
eCommerce sites usually store your data for easier transactions. All cybercriminals have to do is guess your login credentials or launch a brute force attack to access your personal information. It is therefore imperative that you create strong passwords for your eCommerce site accounts and replace them regularly. Avoid predictable passwords like “abcd1234” or the classic “password.” Use a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters, when allowed.

3. Be wary of your emails
You should be wary of emails from unfamiliar senders, especially if they have subject lines or contents that are either full of grammatical errors and misspellings, too urgent-sounding, or threatening, or all of these. If an email comes from a familiar source, such as your bank, but requires you to provide personal details, it’s likely an impersonator is out to steal your data.

Some emails will tell you to click on a link or download an attached file. Do not do as they say. These will likely install malware on your device that will spy on you, steal crucial personal information, or render your data inaccessible.

4. Avoid suspicious sellers and eCommerce sites
Be careful which online sellers or eCommerce sites you entrust your details to. One way to determine how reliable they are is by searching for reviews or comments from past customers. Aside from doing a Google search, you may ask around on Facebook and other social networks.

If you’re using an eCommerce website or app, look for security badges. These are logos that are awarded by third parties like the Better Business Bureau that indicate that the site is trustworthy.

5. Do not overshare on social media
Keep the amount of personal information you share on social media to a minimum. Some crooks scour their potential victims’ social media accounts for private details that can be used to guess passwords or answer security questions. These include birthdays (the date when people greeted you the most), pet names (that video of you beckoning your dog), or your telephone number (which you may have posted on your Facebook profile).

There’s much to love about online shopping, but it can also put your personal data’s security at risk if you're not careful. Protect your data by practicing good digital hygiene and employing the right cybersecurity measures.

Cutting Edge Network Technologies provides first-class cybersecurity solutions to businesses in Orlando and St. Petersburg. Our team makes sure our clients are equipped with the security tools and measures they need to overcome today’s cyberthreats. Download this free eBook to learn the three types of cybersecurity solutions needed by modern businesses.

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