There used to be a time when shopping online was a quick and easy way to buy what we wanted without having to leave our sofa. Increasingly, however, we are becoming more cautious to do so because of one word. Cybercrime.
Anybody who uses a computer is vulnerable to attack from hackers looking to steal our personal information. It doesn't matter how secure you think your computer is, those meaning to commit fraud will always find a way. Nobody is safe. Big name companies such as Sony have been the subject of several attacks when personal details from its customers were stolen. However, we shouldn't stop going online in fear of being attacked. For that reason, many people wouldn't leave their house either for fear of a mugger being around the corner. As with most things in life, we need to be aware of the dangers online and stay safe.
What do hackers do?
They often use malware (computer viruses), programs that are designed to damage your computer and to steal personal information. Often these are hidden in files in the form of email attachments, or on file sharing sites. Hackers often place malware into popular websites by finding a vulnerability in their software.
Your email account is vulnerable to phishing scams. Ever received an email purporting to be from Apple or Paypal? Chances are these were not legitimate, especially if they have asked you to confirm personal details using an external link.
How to stay safe
When shopping online through any site such as Amazon, or an affiliate site such as www.ebates.com, make sure the online store you are using is safe and secure. On the checkout screen, look at the address bar. If the URL starts with HTTPs, you know the website is legitimate. The company may have also issued a statement on their site, telling you what precautions they have taken. They often use a padlock symbol, found on the bottom of the page, letting you know their site is secure.
You don't need to save your bank details on every shopping site. If you know the website has been vulnerable to attack in the past, don't store your account information. It can be a pain to re-enter your details every time you use the store, but at least they will be safe from future hacking attempts.
If you get an email from any company telling you your account has been compromised, don't click on any external links asking you to re-enter any personal information. Often there are simple clues to let you know the sender isn't safe, such as their URL or spelling mistakes in the message. If in doubt, visit the genuine website of the company involved and ask them to affirm the email was real or not.
Finally, while you can never be entirely safe, you can take precautions. Purchase antivirus software. Don't visit dodgy websites. Never click on links from people you have never heard of, and keep your computer updated when prompted
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