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Updated: December 23, 2012 16:47 IST

Watch where you click

P. KRISHNA KUMAR
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P. KRISHNA KUMAR
P. KRISHNA KUMAR

It is that time of the year when retailers begin wooing shoppers with festive offers and discounts. Our mailboxes will soon be inundated with shopping catalogues and coupons from online stores offering this ‘great deal’ or that ‘best offer’. But before you open that email, or click that link, stop! Take a minute to make sure that you are not inviting cyber criminals into your home.

Here are a few tips to keep you safe online this festive season.

Upgrade software: Hackers have malware that is prepared to take advantage of any vulnerability in your system. Make sure that your software is secure and your firewalls, operating system and browser are up-to-date. Use the latest versions of your anti-virus and anti-spyware and make sure that they are upgraded automatically by using the ‘auto-update’ feature.

Software vendors create these updated versions so that you can stay one step ahead of cyber criminals and lock out any possibility of an attack.

Don’t be fooled: You will receive a deluge of mails offering you fantastic discounts and offers. If you think some of them are too good to be true, they probably are. No matter how tempted you are to click, try and resist the urge unless you are certain that the source is authentic and the site is safe. Watch out for spoof sites with addresses that are very similar to popular ecommerce sites. These are created by hackers in the hope that a small change in an alphabet might go unnoticed and an unsuspecting shopper might be tricked into downloading a malware onto their machine.

Look at the address: Ensure that the website address begins with ‘https’. When you fill up your shopping cart and proceed to make an online payment, make sure that the address starts with ‘https’ and not ‘http’. The ‘s’ indicates ‘secure’ payment and denotes that the site has a valid security certificate. Only provide your credit or debit card information if the site is secure.

Got a mobile device? Exercise more caution when you use a mobile device to shop. Shoppers love to use their mobile devices to make purchases because they’re convenient and keep the purchase information private. We often forget that we face the same security threats while shopping or browsing from a tablet or a smartphone as we do when using a home desktop PC.

As mobile devices tend to have fewer security features, they are that much more vulnerable to malware attacks. Avoid making any kind of financial transactions from a mobile device.

Don’t react to unsolicited emails: You may receive emails requesting you to update your bank account or credit card information for online shopping sites. They may say that your account information has expired or is needed to update records.

Always remember that legitimate business emails will never request you to share sensitive information online. It is likely that this is a phishing mail and online identity thieves are trying to steal your provided personal information to make purchases with your credit card. Online shopping should always be a safe, secure and pleasant experience. Follow these simple tips to make sure that cyber thieves don’t ruin your holiday and dampen your festive spirit.

(The author is executive director, Consumer and Small Business, Dell India.)


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