How to Secure Your PC Before Going Online Shopping

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Stay Safe Online

When it comes to online safety, there are lots of ways to ensure that you avoid potential dangers. There was a time where simply clicking on a rotten link could send your computer into a slow and painful death, slowly flooding your system with trojans and bloatware siphoning all your personal information. These days, it is a bit safer with the standard Windows virus software being capable of keeping your PC safe almost all the time. Even if you have not purchased Windows fully, you have access to this software, making it very hard to be infected with a system-killing virus. Nowadays, vulnerability is based on human error. Our data is what hackers and scammers are after – don’t worry, your candid selfies are safe, that is not what they are after. They want the card details you so eagerly type into various websites when shopping or streaming with your friends. Every single day we are sharing valuable information which can be stolen by any individual with a key logger. Most people struggle to realize that emails, passwords, card numbers, and security codes, are amongst the easiest things to recognize while looking at everything that has been typed on your keyboard over a specific period of time.

Staying safe online is not as daunting a process as you might think, and you will not need to be handing out your hard-earned cash in the process. The main benefit of implementing safe online practices will be to ensure that your data stays where you want it, safely in your hands! Well, that and your ISP because even with a VPN and using your incognito tab, your internet service provider can see your every move.

Data Breaches

Roughly every 40 seconds, there is a cyber-attack taking place somewhere on the internet. This means that data breaches are happening fairly frequently. However, if a data breach does occur within any organization, in nearly every case the breach itself makes it less likely for another one to happen within that particular organization. There are free tools online to check if your email address has been attached to, or involved in a website that has had a data breach. If you run your email through these systems, and it comes up as part of any data breaches, you should change your passwords and any passwords associated with that email address immediately, just to be sure that you are not leaving any backdoors open.

Keep Your PC Updated

Yes, it is extremely annoying that Windows always seems to want to install updates every time you try to shut it down. These frustrating little updates are minor patches mostly, but staying up to date can ensure that your Windows Defender is constantly at its peak performance and receiving any necessary security updates. You now know how often a cyber-attack occurs, the same goes for viruses and how the programmer of the said virus will rework and recode until the virus can be used to infect again. These updates can sometimes consist of the latest ways you could be protecting your PC’s health when online shopping.

 

A robot interacting with a virtual screen.
A robot interacting with a virtual screen.

The next step is to update your choice of browser. Your browsers, unless they are off-brand virus-ridden browsers to begin with (like the free browser you got when installing shady software), will be monitoring and making sure you are only able to access verified and safe links while browsing online.

You are basically protected, and you just have to make sure that when you are on a website and putting in your personal information, that you spot the lock icon which comes before the link of the website in your navigation bar. As long as that icon is there, you can be assured that the site is secure and your data can safely be used there.

When making purchases try to stay away from any offers on websites you have never heard of, regardless of the lock icon. Be wary if the offer is too good to be true! The simple fact is that in the majority of cases it is too good to be true and you will be scammed.

Strong passwords are essential. There should be at least eight characters, including numbers, special characters, and uppercase and lowercase letters. Make sure you don’t use the same passwords for your bank, home, and work computers when logging into online shopping websites, and most importantly, never tell anyone your login information.

A map of the world with a laptop showing global connection through the internet.
A map of the world with a laptop showing global connection through the internet.

Sensitive information should also definitely not be emailed. Do not send credit card details or other financial information via email. Emails are like postcards, which can be read by anyone who receives them, or they can be intercepted before reaching their final destination. Be cautious of emails asking for information about accounts or purchases. These emails should be deleted because legitimate business email messages will not solicit any personal information.

Be Vigilant

Being safer can never work to your disadvantage online. Disable pop-ups and if one appears, click the “X” in the top right corner of the title bar to close it. Avoid using public computers and public wireless networks for transactions. When placing an order through public computers, you run the risk of malignant software stealing your credit card information. Credit card numbers and other confidential information could be stolen from public wireless networks by criminals. Make use of temporary account authorizations. Virtual or temporary credit card numbers are even offered by some credit card companies. There are also companies who offer the same kind of service, but instead provide a virtual card you fund, so no matter what happens, the thieves cannot take more than you have put on it. All of these methods can help you have a far safer and more enjoyable online experience without you spending a cent, while potentially saving yourself a lot of pain and hassle.

Code displayed a background with computer servers.
Code displayed a background with computer servers.

This goes above online transactions, but you should be keeping a record of the money coming in and going out of your account every day just to make sure you are entirely aware of your budget, and can spot anything suspicious before it turns into something truly and utterly malicious. Scammers are not the type of people who care if you are in debt nor about any of your personal problems, and they do tend to prey on the weak. Staying safe and taking these extra precautions online is imperative to the safety of your data and hardware.

Melina Richardson is a Cyber Security Enthusiast, Security Blogger, Technical Editor, Certified Ethical Hacker, Author at Cybers Guards & w-se. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.