Several businesses have expanded their online presence allowing you to conduct many transactions from wherever you are. The presence of great Internet connectivity, especially in major towns also means that online transactions are becoming more commonplace. This then raises the issue of cyber security. Conducting business online requires that you part with some personal information to facilitate the transaction. However, if this information were to fall into the wrong hands, it could be disastrous. Malicious people have been known to defraud online users, drain their bank accounts and those of their friends and family, and even impersonate them while committing crimes.
While there are dangers to transacting online, there are a few simple steps you could take to protect yourself:
These days, you can’t get away with a 1234 security code. You will keep getting told that the “password is not strong enough.” This can get annoying. Numbers, letters, uppercase, lowercase, symbols, the name of your firstborn in Chinese – it can get frustrating coming up with a sufficiently complex password, but remember, this is for your own security. Furthermore, if the website gives you the option of 2-step authentication, take it! It could make signing in slightly longer, but, it also makes it almost impossible for a malicious party to access your information.
If you keep getting unsolicited messages from unknown people with suspicious links, it is probably a good idea not to click on them. If there are attachments, do not download them. These messages are meant to attract you, and could promise special offers that are yours if you “click now” or tell you that you have won something and you must “open to claim”. Mostly, they will have spelling mistakes but will try to appear legitimate by masquerading as a service you use. Usually, these are malicious and by opening them, you could be exposing yourself to malware and viruses, which could affect other people sharing your network.
That cliché “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” is relevant here. Many web-pages offering you large rewards for little or no money are probably a scam. Yes, you were excited about “winning that free iPad” or “getting an 80% discount on a trip to the Bahamas if you click here”, but that’s how they get you. Don’t fall for it.
There is a certain standard of information that would be normal for a business to ask you to give. Your name and phone number and sometimes your e-mail address are common examples. But when you want to buy some shoes and you are being told to type your ID number, this should raise a red flag. Be careful about the type of information you provide to any external party. If you have misgivings about it, call the official business number and ask why they would need such information. Better yet, leave the site immediately.
Public wi-fi can be a welcome treat, especially when you want to save your data, but be careful when connected on these, especially when conducting sensitive business. Your transactions can be viewed by anyone who would be motivated to do so, and passwords can be copied, giving access to your accounts. If you can avoid it, all the better, but if you must, at least use a VPN (virtual private network). This will encrypt your connection to the server, making your data more difficult to intercept.