Anytime you are on the Internet, information is being passed between your computer and the websites you choose to browse. When this information is of a sensitive nature, like your personal address, contact numbers and credit card details, you need to make sure that the Internet connection between yourself and the website you are using is secure.
What makes a website secure?
A website is considered to be secure when it scrambles (or encrypts) the communications between your computer and the website.
What to look out for is the address the website uses. If it starts with https this tells you that the communication between your computer and the website will be encrypted, and no one can intercept this information and see your personal or credit card information.
Tip: Make sure the website is secured using https and not just the normal http://. Additionally, most Internet browsers include a padlock symbol which shows you it is secure.
For a website to be secure (and have a https address) it requires a certificate to be validated from a trusted source. Click on the padlock symbol to see the certificate. Most modern browsers will warn you if a site has an invalid certificate. This does not always mean that the site is not trustworthy. Sometimes these warnings are displayed as a result of a time zone error.
Tip: If your browser says there is a security certificate error double check the site you are using, be extra careful.
Choose trusted vendors
There are lots of places to buy goods and services online, and many new websites pop-up to offer the latest deals or bargains. Unfortunately, there are websites that are malicious and are designed to entice you to share your credit card information or infect your computer with a virus.
Tip: Make sure your computer has up-to-date virus (or anti-malware) software installed and the latest security patches applied.
Tip: Stay away from clicking on links in emails that appear in your inbox from an unknown company. It is best practice to avoid clicking any links unless you know the business from which it came.
Tip: Use trusted businesses that you have used before. If you are uncertain, check to see if they have a telephone contact number and give them a call to validate their business.
No one wants to go through the process of canceling their credit cards and recovering any loss due to a credit card being stolen. To limit the risk, an option is to have a credit card that is solely used for online transactions. It may have a smaller credit limit and it will be easier to keep an eye on what transactions are going through.
Tip: Have a credit card that is only used for online transactions.
Overall buying good and services online can be a fun and convenient experience. Don't be nervous - just follow the tips above to be extra safe.