Safe Online Shopping
Online shopping is convenient; but, unless you take certain precautions and maintain highest security level, it may cause you headaches and financial losses
The festival season is now at its peak. Shopping online is convenient and saves time—but, at the same time, if you are not cautious, it may turn into a nightmare. While using the Internet for any purpose, always remember that there are risks. This is because the same Internet gives attackers/fraudsters ways to access your personal and financial information. Not every attacker would rob you: he will simply sell your personal information to someone else who will do the job. 
Attackers are always on the prowl to search for vulnerable computers or PCs, besides creating authentic-looking, but fake, sites and emails and intercepting insecure communication, including that of financial transactions. Here are some basic tips to protect you while shopping online:
1. Use Good Anti-virus and Anti-spyware Software: Avast Free AntiVirus 2015 and AVG AntiVirus Free are two popular free softwares. Anti-Malware from Malwarebytes, also free, helps you keep malware away from your PC. But do not forget to keep the virus/malware definitions up-to-date.
2. Keep Your Browser Updated: Although most browsers alert you about updates, keeping auto updates on and regularly updating your browser helps avoid attacks made using loopholes in the browser. For Firefox, you can use two add-ons, viz., No Script and Ad-Block Plus. Depending on the site, you can give temporary or permanent permission for scripts and advertisements which otherwise get downloaded automatically.
3. Browser Security: Not all browsers offer the highest level of security as default and you need to set it for individual browser/s.
4. Shopping Only with Reputed Vendors/Sites: Although high reputation does not always give you peace of mind and the product you ordered, it helps in avoiding certain issues and get them resolved, if required. Do not get lured to sites that offer the lowest price for any product. If someone is offering a price way below what’s available elsewhere, something is fishy. Stay away from such sites.
5. Avoid Impulse Shopping: Shopping, whether online or offline, should be done only based on needs and not on impulse. Many shopping sites and apps offer you a feature called wish-list (it may differ from site to site). Use this to bookmark a product that you need—or would need—in future. If there is any special offer on this product, you may get an alert as well. 
6. Never Share Data over Email: Despite several warnings from regulators and the police, many people still share their personal and financial information. Never do it. The same applies for clicking on links in emails. Unless you have received the mail from a known entity  and from a known email ID, never click on any link. It may open the door     to attackers. 
7. Check Encryption of the Site: Most sites, especially online shopping and email service-providers, provide a security layer (SSL or secured sockets layer) to encrypt information. Check for the additional ‘s’ in the address bar: It should be ‘https:’ and not just ‘http:’. There should also be a lock icon there, which, after clicking, will show details about the website, its certificate and confirm if the connection to the server used by the site is encrypted or not.
8. Use Cash on Delivery: If you are not comfortable with the site or the product, use the cash on delivery (CoD) option. In that case, open the product in the presence of the delivery person and try to do a video recording. Although it is rare now, several buyers have received stones/bricks instead of the product they ordered. So it is better to be cautious than sorry.
9. Keep Records: While buying online, we do get SMS alerts and email intimation from the shopping site. Do not delete these messages. They may come handy, in case you need to track shipment of your product or if there is any other issue and you need to file a complaint about.
Happy online shopping!
Anand Vaidya
8 years ago
Good list. Also consider using Linux - far better security out of the box compared to Windows
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