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Online vigilance: The do’s and don’t’s of smart and safe online shopping straight from one of the pillars of Kaspersky Lab

By Jonnah Pante - 11 Dec 2017

Online vigilance: The do’s and don’t’s of smart and safe online shopping straight from one of the pillars of Kaspersky Lab

Our team recently had the chance to have an email interview with Sylvia Ng, General Manager for Southeast Asia of cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab. Before we all go on an online shopping spree for the holidays, here are a couple of things to keep in mind.

Sylvia Ng, General Manager for Southeast Asia of Kaspersky Lab

How has e-commerce improved for the last five years?

Sylvia Ng: I think it's fair to say that a large majority of people with a computer or mobile device has bought something online through various e-commerce websites out there.

E-commerce has boomed over the last 5 years. More and more millennials are even using the platform to build an empire, while most people just use it for convenience.

Bargain hunting is now even easier. Looking for that right pair of sneakers but can find it in your home country? Fret not, just go online to eBay or Amazon and search for it, you might just find it would be cheaper and better yet available in your preferred size and color, from someone selling it in Japan.

Ladies just love shopping for that unique dress and accessories to complement it. What was once confined to just having what was sold in shopping malls and stores, are no longer the issue. Fancy Peruvian jewellery or even the Australian fire opal can be bought and delivered to your doorstep with just a click. Oh, the joys of online shopping!

What do you think are the buying behaviors of online Filipino shoppers that make them more vulnerable to cyber attacks?

Sylvia Ng: Shopping online requires a lot of discipline, knowledge, patience and cybersavvyness.

Slack off the discipline and that credit card of yours will be emptied with all that purchases. Patience for when looking for that right item at the right price. Knowledge in knowing how to check if the merchant you’re buying from is genuine or a con artist (we have all heard and seen people receiving items that do not look like what was advertised – iPhone 6s Plus that runs Android???)

But the most important of all is cybersavvyness. Yes, if you are not vigilant or attentive to where you’re sharing your information (especially your credit card details), be prepared to have yourself digitally cloned and your money siphoned out.

Unfortunately, most Filipinos are not that vigilant or attentive when it comes to identifying unsecured shopping sites or fake commerce sites. This is the main weakness that makes them vulnerable. They’re too relaxed when it comes to looking for the bad signs. The focus lies only in shopping for the item they want, but not checking if the website is legit.

What are the precautionary steps to make sure that the transactions made online are firmly secured?

Sylvia Ng: As you already know, internet browsing brings its own risks, so keep these tips in mind when taking to the web:

Update Your OS:  Any time a software update is offered to you on any of your devices, you should download it. Updates are released to fix any vulnerabilities that exist, so opting out of them could leave you in harm’s way.

Ignore Links: As you already know, you should never click on any pop up ads or “context”  links that appear on the websites you’re visiting. These could be malicious and if clicked on, could infect your device. This time of the year, spammy emails and website ads offer amazing deals, however, you have to use your common sense to distinguish between good deals and impossibly sweet offers, with the latter probably being scams.

Double Check Sites: While we’re on the subject of malicious links, you should also be sure to stay on the lookout for fake websites. Even though fraudulent sites are often great imposters of their real deal counterparts, you can often spot warning signs on them upon closer inspection, like spelling errors.

Use A Secure Connection: You shouldn’t ever use public, non-password protected WiFi when going online. You should instead be shopping on your own, secure network to guarantee no attackers steal your personal data. You should also never use public computers when accessing sites that require you to enter personal information.

Use Strong Passwords: Another great way to avoid having your personal information stolen is to use strong passwords when logging into sites. If you’re unsure about what makes a strong password, you can take a look at some examples of the worst choices out there – just google it!

Protect Your Financial Data: When it’s time to make your purchase, be sure your financial data is secure. If you’re already using Kaspersky Internet Security, you can use features like Secure Keyboard and Safe Money to keep your transactions guarded against any attacks. To avoid exposing your credit card data to untrusted online shops, you might consider using intermediary services like PayPal to protect yourself as well.

What are the details needed to be checked when it comes to the safety of online shoppers?

Sylvia Ng: First thing to remember, you’re buying an item from someone you have never met, a stranger. Next thing to remember, you’re buying an item you can’t touch, smell, try, etc. All you can do it look at pictures and read the way its described.

So here’s what you need to be aware of:

Beware of counterfeit goods. Many people heading to eBay are looking to get a deal on a product, whether it is new or second-hand. One thing that you should always do is read the description of a product before making a purchase. If you have a question about an item, ask the seller via the listing on the site. Sometimes, sellers make it impossible for you to know an item is counterfeit — pictures can lie.

Don’t just trust; verify. To go along with the tip above, you can always see how well rated a seller is by clicking their profile and looking at their recent reviews. A rule of thumb I tend to follow is that if an item looks too good for the price or if it is an item that retails for a much higher price, I should probably look elsewhere.

Do your research. If you are buying something vintage or a piece of memorabilia, you really need to do your homework. Check out the going rates for these items at major auction houses or collector sites. Scammers at times will look to pass off reproductions as the real thing. You do not want to be stuck paying hundreds of dollars for a bootleg Civil War relic or a counterfeit autograph of your favorite sports star.

How different are the threats imposed when online shoppers utilize smartphones compared to when they use a desktop?

Sylvia Ng: Contrary to popular belief, using a tablet or smartphone is actually much safer than using a desktop or a laptop.

If you have a Linux-based device — such as a Samsung tablet or another device that runs the Linux operating system — it may be safer to use that for online transactions. Apple iPads may also be less likely to be exploited while you’re shopping online — provided that your device has not been jailbroken. However, always remember to avoid using a public Wi-Fi network — or there’s a risk your passwords and other data could be stolen.

Of course you could still use a desktop or laptop, but we would recommend you use a dedicated computer for this. This machine should be a “clean” computer that is totally free of computer viruses and any other infections. In order to help keep it clean, the machine should not be used for any casual web browsing, social networking or email. Install Google Chrome, with forced HTTPS.

Some sites recommend using credit cards instead of debit cards in shopping online, any thoughts on this?

Sylvia Ng: Yes, it is a good idea to do so. When you are ready to make your purchase, be sure to use a credit card instead of a debit card. If you end up purchasing a fraudulent gift, you have a better chance of getting your money refunded if you’ve used a credit card.

Also, a debit card is linked to your account, and not many people have an account dedicated to online shopping with just enough money for that one-time shopping. Most link it to their main account, which means that it could all be gone.

Also, to avoid exposing your credit card data to untrusted online shops, you should consider using intermediary services like PayPal to protect yourself as well.

From Kaspersky Lab’s standpoint, what is the current state of the industry of e-commerce in the Philippines with regard to safety and security?

Sylvia Ng: The growth in the popularity of online shopping websites has brought an increase in the activities of cybercriminals that are targeting unwary consumers – Filipinos are no exception.

I’ve always said that knowledge is key to combating this. The more you know, the better it is for you and safer it will be. You can also learn from other’s mistakes as well. In fact, we at Kaspersky Lab have a page where you can learn from others mistakes – www.goondusawards.com .

But back to where we were, we as buyers and sellers need to be proactive in managing our online security. Sellers need to provide a safe purchasing platform for their buyers. Buyers need to perform verifications and checks on the websites they’re purchasing from.