As the holiday season approaches, you should remember to take precautions against hackers when you purchase gifts online. Consumers, of course, should keep their computer’s anti-virus software up to date, but they also should consider blocking suspicious websites and always should confirm that a site’s URL is secure.
James Quin, who is a lead analyst for Info Tech Research Group, an information-technology research firm, says the majority of e-commerce websites are secure against hackers who seek consumers’ personal and financial information. But he warns that consumers must remain vigilant.
The standard security measure for e-commerce sites is secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption. When a customer is making a purchase on an e-commerce site, his/her computer’s browser sends information to the site’s server. Quin says SSL encryption acts like a tunnel that allows the information to be transmitted securely.
However, Quin points out that a hacker can compromise an e-commerce site’s SSL certificate of authentication, which sends a message to a customer’s Internet browser to verify the website’s identity. As a result, a customer’s financial information could be stolen. Malware or viruses also could be transmitted to a customer’s computer, which could put even more of his/her financial information at risk of being stolen.
John Pescatore, who is a security analyst for technology-research firm Gartner, reminds consumers that the first line of defense is to install anti-virus software on their computer.
Consumers also can take a step further by blocking suspicious websites from their computer through a domain-name-system security service, which also authenticates a website. Pescatore says consumers should check with their Internet service provider to see whether this option is available.
Pescatore also says consumers should check an e-commerce site’s URL address to make sure that it features a lock icon or that the HTTP in the address field changes to HTTPS when you make a purchase. Pescatore says most major retail sites feature a URL that turns green to signify that the connection is secure.
– K. Fanuko