Tips for ensuring safe online transactions and recognizing secure websites
Think of online transactions as handing a letter filled with your secrets across a crowded room. Everyone between you and your recipient could potentially have a peek at its content. You would certainly feel more secure if the letter were sealed in a tamper-proof envelope. In the realm of online transactions, this envelope is essentially encryption, a robust mechanism that ensures that your secret stays secret even if intercepted.
Online transactions, be it shopping or banking, can feel like a leap of faith. We trust websites with sensitive information like our credit card numbers, banking credentials, and personal details. But how do we make sure we’re leaping onto a safe platform?
Begin with verifying the website’s authenticity. Look for the ‘https://’ at the beginning of the URL. This ‘s’ signifies that the website uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption, ensuring that the data exchanged between you and the website is secure. It’s like a secret language between you and the recipient of your letter, unintelligible to the onlookers. Websites often indicate their use of SSL with a padlock symbol in the address bar.
However, a padlock alone is no longer enough to assure a website’s safety. Cybercriminals can also obtain SSL certificates and display a padlock on their malicious websites. According to a PhishLabs report, more than 80% of the phishing sites observed in 2020 used SSL (1). So, how do we differentiate the villains from the heroes?
Take an extra moment to examine the website’s SSL certificate. Click on the padlock symbol to view the certificate, which tells you who issued it and to whom. Make sure the name matches the website you intended to visit.
For online shopping, it’s a good practice to use credit cards instead of debit cards. Credit cards often offer better fraud protection. Think of it as using a check instead of cash for our letter analogy. If the check gets into the wrong hands, you can stop it before it’s cashed.
Lastly, keep your devices and browsers updated. These updates often contain security patches that fix vulnerabilities that could be exploited by cybercriminals. It’s like having the most up-to-date code to encode your secret letter.
Transacting online is no longer a choice but a necessity. But with a vigilant eye and secure practices, we can make this necessity a safer endeavor.
(1) PhishLabs. “Phishing Trends & Intelligence Report: Hacking the Human.” PhishLabs, 2020. https://info.phishlabs.com/hubfs/2020%20PTI%20Report/2020%20Phishing%20Trends%20&%20Intelligence%20Report.pdf