Consumer, Mobile Security

Naughty or Nice – Are we getting too risky with our online shopping habits?

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By on Nov 30, 2012

Fa la la la la la let me put that in my cart

Maybe it’s the eggnog or the caroling, or perhaps the excitement of finding just the right gift, but every year something makes us temporarily throw our good judgment out the window and make some questionable decisions when it comes to holiday shopping. And, no, we’re not talking about buying an unfortunate red sweater with the rickrack tree on it. It’s making online purchases, from a laptop, tablet or smartphone, without thinking of the repercussions. Yes, it’s the season of gingerbread and crackling fires, but it’s also a time when the hackers are out in full force, looking for easy targets. A recent McAfee study indicates 54% of Americans surveyed plan on doing online shopping or banking on a mobile app through their smartphone or tablet this holiday season.  Among smartphone and/or tablet owners, anywhere from 33% (Canada) to 41% (United States) within most countries and as high as nearly 60% within India have used their mobile devices in order to research or purchase holiday gifts. With that in mind, what mobile shopping behaviors can keep us all on the nice list?

Don’t make purchases on public Wi-Fi connections

The vast majority (93%) of people we surveyed within each country tested believe there is at least some degree of risk to personal identity when someone uses free Wi-Fi on a mobile device. With mobile banking being of particular interest to holiday shoppers (over 54% of those surveyed), think about waiting till you get to your personal, secure connection before you check your balance or deposit your check via photo upload. Whatever you’re looking at while on these unsecured connections can be seen by virtually anyone. Pretend there’s someone looking right over your shoulder. If you don’t want that person seeing it, save it for when you’re on your own connection.

Look for the “s”

When purchasing, make sure the web address starts with https and not just http in your mobile browser, meaning the site is secure and encrypted. On a mobile device, you can also look for an image of a padlock at the beginning of the URL. Otherwise, your personal information (password, credit card number) could easily be stolen. Only 47% of Americans indicated that they identify the presence of https in the website address as a sign of security.

Offers may be sent to you via text message, and just because the name looks familiar, it doesn’t mean that your personal information is secure when you decide to take advantage of the deal. Check to see how the retailer is asking you to redeem the deal and even consider double-checking the regular store website to make sure the offer is real.

Buy from trusted sources

When in doubt, stick with companies you know and trust, and be on the lookout for “look-alikes” that offer deals that are too good to be true. The same goes for downloading apps. Be sure you are purchasing from a legitimate app store and always check reviews. There are countless numbers of mobile payment apps out there but using only those provided by your bank or credit card company is a good call. We found that most smartphone and/or tablet users are willing to share some of the very same pieces of personal information as they fear being stolen – if they can receive something of value to them in exchange. Do you really want to take that risk?

If you’ve happened to snap an image of a QR code for your holiday deal, stop and consider what may be sitting on the other side of that unpreviewed link. Not all QR codes are created equal, so be sure that you really trust content you’re looking to visit.

Check those permissions

Yes, the text is a bit long sometimes but it pays to read what you’re agreeing to when it comes to downloading apps. What are the privacy policies? How are they using your personal data? Are they tracking your location?

The interesting part is that the vast majority of us tend to know we are being risky when we do something a bit naughty Iike going to a site by clicking on a random link in an app, browsing on an unsecured connection or sending something sensitive via mobile email. In fact, nearly 28% of Americans with a smartphone or tablet do not pay attention at all, with an additional 6% indicating that they don’t download apps.

Yet, we continue to push the envelope. Is this a matter of thinking that we won’t get into trouble? Are we too impatient? I tend to think it’s the fruitcake. All things can be blamed on fruitcake.

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