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Stay Safe When Shopping Online This Christmas

18 November 2019

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Cyber Security

Cyber security hits the headlines on a regular basis with high profile organisations often being targeted. But we are all at risk and given that approximately £25 billion will be spent in the UK online in the run up to Christmas we thought it was timely to look at how we can stop our hard-earned money ending up in the hands of Cyber Criminals. So, with this in mind here are our top tips to stay safe online this Christmas.

Trust your gut feeling

You wouldn't buy from a shop on the high street that gives you a bad feeling so treat online shops in the same way. If at any time during the process you feel like the site is asking for too much personal information, just quit the transaction and leave the site. You may hate leaving behind a really good deal but it’s not worth the risk.

Be extra careful if you're on a mobile device

Smartphones can basically do everything a computer can do but most phones aren't equipped with the anti-virus software that you have on your computer. It's therefore easier for criminals to get malware on your mobile device that could help them steal information you enter. Shortened URLs are convenient but can also trick you into visiting a risky site. There's also the risk of your phone being stolen.

Don't use public Wi-Fi to shop

Most Wi-Fi hotspots don't encrypt your data so a hacker in the same coffee shop, for example, can basically snatch your identity, if they have the right software. Any information you send through the hotspot could be picked up by criminals. If the information you’re going to submit is sensitive wait until you get home to your protected network.

Check your credit card statement frequently

Using a credit card is really the only smart way to shop online. But credit card companies can't always catch purchases you didn't make or receive so keep an eye on your statements. If you see something you didn’t buy contact your credit card company immediately.


Watch your passwords

Many people still choose passwords that are easy to remember and quick to type. Don’t fall into the trap - choose strong passwords that are alphanumeric and contain symbols. Don’t use the same password for multiple websites and if it’s available use two factor authentication.

Look for HTTPS in the URL rather than HTTP

It’s good advice to always look for HTTPS but if you’re making online purchases then it’s vital. HTTPS uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) which encrypts information so that only the intended recipient can see it.

Don't click on links in emails

Instead type out the address in your browser to make sure you're going to the website you think you're visiting. Many phishing scams involve emails from what seem like legitimate websites which then send you to a fake website with the sole purpose of gathering your information.

Check the company's privacy policy

Reading the privacy policy is the only way to know what a company does with our information and how it is transmitted. We tend to skip over this information but it's important if you want to make sure your personal data can't be sold to third parties and that it’s secure.

Update your browser

Popular web browsers are regularly updated and with each new update security will be boosted. Not only do older browsers fail to work well with modern websites they often have holes in their security that criminals have discovered and can exploit. The same advice goes for your operating system and anti-virus software.

I’ll finish by saying please don’t worry - following these simple tips will go a long way to keeping you safe online this Christmas.

All that remains is to wish you a very happy Christmas from the OwlTree team.