Safe Online Shopping in 7 Simple Steps

Given the current economic problems, people are increasingly turning to internet shopping in order to save money. A comfortable way to browse and compare gift ideas, shopping online provides a more efficient method of researching the cheapest prices available in high street stores.

Buying your gifts on the internet provides the distinct advantage that you can quickly and efficiently compare the prices of your chosen items. Manually comparing prices often yields favourable results, or price comparison websites such as Pricerunner or Kelkoo can often help to find the best prices in the least time. In a difficult economic climate, the ability to economise your budget is, without doubt, a contributing factor to the rising popularity of online shopping.

Internet shopping is generally a very safe and convenient platform for today’s busy shopper, however to ensure a productive shopping experience it is worth adhering to the top 7 tips of safe online shopping.

1) SSL Security Certificate

It is important that the website you are buying from carries an SSL certificate on pages where you are entering private information such credit card and billing information. ‘SSL’ stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is used to encrypt sensitive information transmitted over the internet.

Information transmitted via SSL cannot be read by unauthorised third parties, so your details cannot be deciphered even in the off-chance they are intercepted. To check whether the website you are buying from uses SSL (a requirement of websites which transmit credit card details) simply check the URL of your page for the https: and/or the secure padlock symbol at the foot of your browser window.

2) Internet Browser Updates

To ensure a trouble-free online shopping experience, and in general, you should always ensure your internet browser is kept as up to date as possible. The latest browser updates are continually released to address security bugs and vulnerabilities. Free to download and install, updating your browser is quick and easy, so there is no reason not to have the latest version of your browser installed.

3) Operating System Updates

As with Internet Browsers, Operating Systems can also be vulnerable to new bugs and security holes, which is why it is important to keep your operating system up to date for a safe online experience. This is especially important for Windows based operating systems, which are installed in most home computers/laptops, and as such are particularly liable to security breaches.

Most modern operating systems provide automatic software updates. Alternatively, you can manually download the most recent software updates for free online. In either case, you should always ensure your operating system is up to date to ensure optimal security at all times.

4) Keep Your Anti-Virus Software Up-To-Date

Most of us are aware of the importance of installing a good anti-virus suite, but it is worth re-emphasising this point. Viruses often arrive in the guise of email attachments or website downloads, but they can also be unknowingly downloaded from malicious websites just by visiting that website.

There are a variety of excellent anti-virus packages available, some of which are free, so securing your computer against potential virus threats is as simple as finding the a package which suits you and installing it.

You should also make sure your anti-virus suite is up-to-date by installing the most recent virus definitions when they become available. Updated virus definitions contain code used to recognise new virus threats, so to make sure your device is adequately protected it is important to install these updates. Your anti-virus package normally download these definitions automatically, and Windows based operating systems will recognise whether or not your virus protection is up-to-date.

5) Adware/Anti-Spyware/Malware software

There are other forms of malicious software which pose a potential threat to internet users. Spyware and Adware usually install themselves on your computer simply by visiting an infected website. At its worst, this type of software can install malicious programs such as keylogger software, which can log the keypresses of the keyboard on an infected machine, and can be used to hijack sensitive information such as credit card numbers.

There are a number of very good free software packages which prevent malicious software such as Spyware/Adware/Malware from running on your machine, so it is a wise move to install such a package on your device.

6) Install a Firewall

A Firewall is a piece of software which prevents access to your computer by an unauthorised user or software program. If you do not have a Firewall installed, your computer might be vulnerable to being hacked and malicious software such as trojans, viruses and worms, therefore it is important to make sure you have one installed. Again, there are a variety of excellent Firewall programs available for free download, and in modern installations of Windows operating systems a Firewall is included as standard.

7) Don’t Fall For Phishing

‘Phishing’ is a widespread security issue whereby a malicious user/organisation can gain access to sensitive information such as credit card/username/password details by utilising a fake website and/or email.

Typically, a user will receive an email, for example from a reputable bank, requesting that the email recipient the email update their details online. The phishing email normally contains a link to a illegitimate website designed to collect your details for fraudulent purposes. These websites are often near-identical the original website on which they are based, and recipients of phishing emails are often tricked into entering their sensitive information to fraudulent third parties.

Modern Internet Browsers have installed anti-phishing tools which alert users to of potential phishing threats. Vigilance is also recommended, as banking websites will never email clients requesting full passwords or usernames.

By applying these top 7 tips for safe shopping online, you can ensure online shopping is as safe as possible, with the added satisfaction that you can make significant savings in the process.