05Jan
A Consumer Security Refresher

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We hope you’ve all had a great holiday season. From expressing gratitude over baked poultry, to whichever decorative late-December gift exchange you celebrate, to the inevitable pass of the baton from 2015 to 2016 (it’s strange that New Years is the one day of the year when dropping the ball is encouraged, no?). Hopefully all of the above were happy and reflective for you!

Now that 2016 has officially arrived, it seems safe to say that this whole, “internet” craze may not be just a passing fad. And the fact that the whole concept of, “Cyber Monday” has been deemed an official holiday, it got me thinking about how ingrained e-commerce has become in society. So it seems like a good time for a quick review of some of the finer points of consumer security to keep in mind as you make purchases via online retail. Not all of these tips will be ground breaking new information, but there’s never any harm in a brief refresher when your cyber-safety is as stake.

Some Due Diligence

The first concept to remember when you’re entering your credit card information is that someone needs to do their due diligence. By this I mean that either the e-store itself should either be an established, reputable name, OR if it is not, you may want to do a little homework to be sure you’re dealing with an organization on the up and up.

The first thing to look for is contact information for the seller. A phone number, a physical address, and an email address all being present for customers is a good sign that no one has anything to hide. It may not be necessary to verify these points of contact, but if you’ve found yourself on a retail site that seems a bit iffy, you can’t go wrong to give their customer care number a call and see what you get. Likewise a sleek, well designed interface is another good indicator of a reputable vendor. Certainly it’s not a fail safe, but every little bit helps. Navigate the site and be sure everything is as it should be, right down to the URL. Phishing is a technique where malicious folks create convincing-looking bogus sites to try and trick you into volunteering your passwords and credentials. Pay attention and be sure to confirm to the best of your ability that you’re dealing with a real store and making real purchases.

Strength Trumps Weakness

Speaking of passwords, for sites that include or require registration and log-in to make purchases (ie. pretty much all of them), don’t make a would-be evil doer’s job easier. Even in this day and age, the majority of basic consumer security breaches can be linked to password quality. For example, if your password is “password,” you just might bear some of the responsibility for any potential security issues. A strong password need not be a hundred-character encryption, but varying letter case, numbers, symbols, and meaning can go a long way in keeping your purchases secure. Another good tip for passwords is to come up with a personal convention you’ll never forget. For example I like to intentionally mis-spell a word by doubling the second-to-last-letter, and capitalizing the third letter.

I mean, no I don’t.

S Means Yes

One last security tip is a quick one, but a good one: When you’re entering personal information into a web form, look at that page’s URL. All URLs begin with “http,” but not all begin with “https.” You should be looking for that S. It mean that site uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption, which more or less ensures that the transfer of your information won’t be intercepted by a third party during transmission. You don’t need to remember, “Secure Sockets Layer encryption,” but definitely be sure to store, “s means secure” in your mental memory bank. Luckily, most serious online retailers have an https address nowadays. It is 2016, after all.

Safety First

Again, the above may be something of a review for a lot of our readers, but it’s a good review to have. Convenience is at an all time high, technology-wise, and it is an upward trend showing no sign of slowing. We all enjoy the benefits of modern technology, like the ability to sit in our underware at our computers and have bricks and mortar shipped to our doorsteps. Just be sure to take any and all possible precautions to keep your private information safe and secure. There are no guarantees, but the odds can be shifted greatly in the favor of the savvy. And on that uplifting note, we at Curotec wish you a happy and healthy 2016!