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David M. Lay

A PC Geek has been serving the Waxahachie area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Tip of the Week: How to Safely Shop Online

b2ap3_thumbnail_safe_holiday_shopping_400.jpgThe holiday shopping season is upon us and more people are choosing to shop from the comforts of their home PC or mobile device rather than fight the crowds. Shopping online is super convenient, but it’s not without the risk of identity theft. The best way to protect your digital shopping cart from hackers is to know how to safely shop online. We’ll show you how.

This is a special time of the year when hackers are watching the habits of shoppers, hoping to steal identities and ruin the holidays in Grinch-like fashion. Going back to just last year, more than 70 million customer identities from Target were compromised in what Forbes magazine called “the nightmare before Christmas.” In this incident, it was Target’s job to protect its customers and they substantially missed the mark. When it comes to online shopping, retailers take several precautions to protect your data, but the consumer also has the responsibility to use safe Internet browsing practices.

Double Check to Make Sure that Your Information is Secure
In the same way that you wouldn’t leave your credit card out in the open for every shopper to see, you should take extra care to keep your financial information private when making online purchases. One way to do this is to avoid sending sensitive information via email. Your email may not be as secure as you think. A dedicated hacker can easily breach a password-protected email service or social media account. If they come across a message containing all of your sensitive information, then you might as well gift wrap your credit card and mail it to them tucked inside a holiday greeting card--along with a picture of your family and all of their financial information too.

It’s best practice to only send your financial information over online forms provided by the official website. These forms are encrypted and secure. You can check to see if an online form is secure by investigating its security certificate. Do this by making sure that the URL begins with “https” instead of the normal “http.” Also, depending on the browser, you should see a padlock icon at the beginning of the address letting you know that the entered information is encrypted.

Avoid Shopping Over Public WiFi
Data transferred over public WiFi is particularly susceptible to hackers. You don’t know for sure who you're sharing the connection with, and if they’ve got the tools needed to view your screen or directly access your files. Unless you know what kind of security the WiFi provider uses, it’s best not to connect to public WiFi, especially when dealing with sensitive personal and corporate information.

It may seem mighty tempting to break this rule and use public WiFi when traveling and find yourself in a pinch. One way to securely use a wireless Internet connection is over a Virtual Private Network. This is a private network that only you and the people you share it with can access. A PC Geek can help set this up for you on your mobile device and company network.

Using Up-to-Date Software Prevents Hack Attacks
One of the most important steps you can take in order to make sure that your online shopping experience is safe is to make sure that your software is up to date. This especially applies to your web browser and operating system. Actually, it applies to all of the software on your computer due to the fact that software updates often take into account vulnerabilities that hackers like to exploit. As far as online shopping goes, updating your software is like closing the door to the dressing room before trying on new clothes.

Updating your software isn’t difficult to do, but it can be a tedious task that’s easy to lose sight of--which can cost you dearly if a hacker exploits your oversight. With A PC Geek’s managed IT services, we remotely perform these updates for you so that you can shop freely from your workstation without concern of a hacker stealing your information.

If your systems are up to date and you’re using best practices when shopping online, then you won’t have to worry about hackers stealing your identity and ruining your holiday. If you have any doubt that your network can keep out a hacker, then call A PC Geek at (469) 567-0181 for a free IT consultation and security assessment.



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