Online Shopping this Holiday Season? Here's How to Stay Protected

by VPNHaus | 12/12/2019 |Cybercrime, Cybersecurity Strategy, Data Security, Encryption

With the holiday season in full swing, retailers and e-commerce stores are once again competing with the lowest prices and best bargain deals to draw in new customers and increase sales. Nearly 190 million people shopped from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

This year, more and more shoppers are ditching the crowded lines in-store and opting to shop online in the comfort of their own home. Deloitte forecasts retailers’ digital sales to amount to $144-$149 billion this holiday season, with e-commerce sales expected to grow between 14-18 percent. Holiday shopping on smartphones in particular is expected to rise 6 percent from 2018.

However, while online shopping is convenient, it is also extremely risky. Cybercriminals are targeting online retailers more than ever in an effort to steal personally identifiable information (PII) from customers. According to a survey conducted by Experian, 43% of consumers who have had their identity stolen say that it happened while shopping online during the holidays.

Common Security Risks

One of the most common risks of online shopping is identity theft. Adware, for example, often tricks shoppers into clicking a pop-up advertisement that asks for sensitive information such as your name and address. Clicking on adware can also infect a computer with malware such as viruses, ransomware, or spyware.

Shopping over public WiFi is another major security pitfall. Unsecured WiFi connections are susceptible to eavesdropping by cybercriminals looking to steal PII. Other risks include websites that don’t use SSL encryption. Website addresses that don’t include “https” in the URL are not secure and should be not trusted to keep credit card details and banking information protected from third-parties.

Major retail chains are prime targets when it comes to hacking and data breaches. Most recently, Macy’s website fell victim to a data breach where hackers gained access to customers’ personal and financial information, including credit card numbers and card security codes. In a letter to affected customers, Macy’s reveals that an unknown cybercriminal or group of hackers targeted with malicious code placed strategically at the checkout page and the My Account wallet page in order to grab credit card information usable for fraud.

Shop Online with Peace of Mind  

To avoid falling victim to identity theft this holiday season, it’s important to follow security best practices when shopping online. Never click on pop-ups ads or suspicious links, only download apps from official app stores and other trusted sources, use a private WiFi connection, and learn how to recognize phishing scams. While these practices can help to prevent identity theft, it is still crucial to encrypt your network connection with a virtual private network (VPN).

A VPN guarantees personal information is protected by encrypting all traffic between a computer or smartphone and a website. End-to-end encryption protects data at every stage of the communications process – at device-level, while in transit, and when stored at its destination – by scrambling the content to render it unintelligible to outside observers. Together with following security best practices, a VPN will ensure your personal information remains protected from online scams. 

Overall, online shopping will continue to be a popular choice among consumers due to its convenience and accessibility. In 2021, over 2.14 billion people worldwide are expected to buy goods and services online.

As cybercriminals become more sophisticated and security risks escalate, customers must be extremely careful when shopping online. Utilizing a VPN is the best way to protect your identity and payment information as it provides advanced encryption. Many VPNs also feature a centrally managed personal firewall to protect end-devices from unauthorized access.

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