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How to Protect Your Online Transactions

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How to Protect Your Online Transactions

It was estimated that damages incurred through fraudulent transactions would surpass $12 billion by the year 2020, but a Juniper Research reported that online transaction fraud would more than double to $25 billion by 2020. $21.84 billion was the staggering amount incurred in 2015 suffered by banks and e-merchants credit, debit, and pre-paid payments and transactions due to fraudulent losses, which was a remarkable 40% of the total loss incurred from fraudulent transactions worldwide. By the end of the decade, $4 will be stolen from every $1000 e-payments. 

As more and more people are doing online shopping and banking, stricter measures were implemented like the CHIP and PIN services at POS (Point of Sale). But it has led cyber thieves to divert their attention to CNP (Card Not Present) transactions. e-Retail, banking, and airline ticketing are among the worst affected and most targeted by thieves because together, they make up 98% of online fraud. 

According to Juniper, the popularity of mobile payments, booming e-commerce industry, increase in the flow of money globally, data breaches, and Card not Present (CNS) fraud all contribute to the exponential growth of online payment frauds. 

As horrible as all these sounds, you can protect yourself whenever you make any online transactions. It would be best if you defended yourself as you enter any environment, digital, or reality. Your security is your responsibility, and being aware is the best prevention to cyberattacks and online fraud: 

  • Regularly update your OS, apps, and software on all your devices. 

A trait of hackers is that they are resilient. Hackers are working hard to find more and more ways to intercept online transactions, so you need all your devices to be in their best shape, security-wise. Let us talk about software updates. It is easy to ignore. In a fast-paced working environment and social life, you may not even have “update software” as one of the priorities in your day. Although most software updates take up only a few minutes of your time, the task seems mundane and unimportant. Being lax is the kind of mentality that hackers hope you have as apps and OS that is not updated is, sort of, fair game for them. Official updates serve to patch any vulnerability in the system or to introduce any new features that they have added to help you better. All types of OS and apps have weaknesses, one way or another. But having outdated OS and apps have known vulnerabilities that a hacker with enough technical know-how can exploit. And exploit it, they will. It is an opening to access your sensitive information.

In September 2017, Equifax experienced a data breach. Hackers were able to access user’s sensitive information, not through Equifax secure servers, but their web application. The vulnerability was Apache Struts CVE-2017-5638. The company that maintained the framework of the web application sent a statement that informed Equifax of the vulnerability and issued a patch on March 7, 2017. Equifax did scans of their system but did not find any issue with it, so the web application went unpatched till July 2017. Equifax’s information security department then discovered suspicious activity on their network portal to the point that they disconnected it to undergo investigation. Equifax hired cybersecurity investigators that found out that145 million Americans, 8,000 Canadians, and around 690,000 UK Citizens had been affected by the data breach.

The Equifax data breach is a clear example of how important software updates for maintaining security online. Software developers are continually testing and updating their systems. Official updates serve to patch any vulnerability in the system or to introduce any new features that they have added to help serve you better.

  • Use advanced security software and VPN.

Online Transactions

Security software installed on all your devices should not even be a question anymore. It should be a top priority, not an afterthought, or just an option. Make sure you get the best anti-virus and security software that will give you total protection, especially on all your banking and shopping transactions online. Turn the auto-update feature on so your software can detect and defend from new malware threats. Run virus scans regularly and use ad-blocking and spyware detection software. 

Always use a reliable firewall security system, and use a Virtual Private Network or VPN to protect your online transactions further. VPNs “hide” you and encrypt all data you send in your network, including confidential information such as credit card details and the like.

  • Shop only from secure websites

Shop only from secure websites

Photo by Pexels

Only shop or make payments with trusted websites and apps, since you will be encoding sensitive details. Only browse with sites that have the small padlock symbol in the URL strip, called the TLS or transport layer security.

Avoid browsing in “HTTP” websites. Only browse from secure sites that start with “HTTPS.” The “s” stands for “secure.”

  • Use your Credit Card or PayPal when shopping, never your debit card.

Use your Credit Card or PayPal when shopping, never your debit card

Photo by Piqsels

Make sure that you use your credit card, not your debit card when shopping online. Your debit card is connected to your bank account, and it is highly risky to buy online with it. Credit cards also have spending limits, which is a good layer of protection that comes in handy in the case of credit card loss or theft. Some credit cards are only meant for online shopping and not withdrawing money. These specific-use credit cards are an excellent way to stronger online security.  PayPal is also a safe way to shop, and you can securely connect your bank account to this app as well.

  • Use strong passwords and never shop or bank online on public WiFi

Use strong passwords and never shop or bank online on public WiFi

Photo by NeedPix

Never shop online or do bank transactions when you are on public WiFi. Hackers prowl these free internet networks to plant malware in devices, steal data, or other kinds of cyber thievery. Do not use computers in public places as well, like libraries or internet cafes, because the computers in these public places can be manipulated by tweaking their hardware or software. 

Should you feel the need to access networks through an unsecured environment such as public WIFI, be sure to set a complex password with an alphanumeric combination and unique characters. Change it once you have a secure connection again. Consistently update your passwords as well to secure yourself better, especially when you are travelling.

  • Disable Automatic Login

Disable Automatic Login

Photo by Pixabay

Automatic login may be convenient for you, but it is not safe to do so. Your browser keeps your username and password data allowing you to automatically access your account without typing those details down each time. Even if you are using a personal computer or device, there remains the chance this information can be accessed and intercepted. You need to avoid automatic login at all costs, primarily if you use your phone for online banking. What if someone happens to swipe your phone? They won’t even need your username or password to get into your bank account. Disable this feature on your phone and your desktop right away!

  • Look for Digital Certificates

Look for digital certificates that validate the identity of the websites you are transacting with. Independent, third-party services like VeriSign can do this authentication. Web sites that use this service will have the VeriSign logo to assure you the site is legitimate and can securely collect your personal and financial information.

  • Keep records of your online transactions and watch your credit card statement.

Keep records of your online transactions and watch your credit card statement.

Photo by Piqsels

After making online purchases or transactions, check your email. Legitimate merchants should send confirmation emails confirming your order and payment. Make sure you buy from providers and sellers that give you a way to track your order, and that has excellent customer service support in case you encounter problems in the process. But scrutinize the email receipt for any suspicious differences, wrong spelling, or incorrect grammar to avoid phishing scams.

  • Avoid Opening Suspicious Emails

Phishing emails are malicious emails that are sent by hackers so they can get your private data, especially your credit card details. The emails will appear legitimate, but a closer look would reveal that the source is fictitious, and the person may be a hacker. Never bite the bait of phishing attacks. When you receive suspicious emails, delete them right away without opening them. In case you fall victim to a phishing attack, contact your bank right away to have your credit card put on hold and report any illegal payments done through your account.

  • Download Your Bank’s Mobile App

Instead of accessing your bank through your desktop, download its mobile app. Computers get targeted with the most malicious attacks more than mobile devices. So, accessing your cellular network and logging into your bank account may be a lot safer to do so in a mobile app.

Conclusion: Better to be Secure than Sorry

It may be cumbersome to secure your devices and follow security protocols when doing your online transactions. If you suspect any duplicitous use of your credit card, inform your bank immediately. The sooner you report loss, theft, or suspected identity theft, the better. Always buy from trustworthy vendors and always be aware of the latest cybersecurity trends and threats to know the best measures of protection you need to follow because it is better to be secure than sorry.

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