Ask An Expert: How Can I Stay Safe While Shopping Online?

Do a lot of shopping online? These cyber security tips could help. Collage / Julia Gessler

Theta’s head of cyber security, Liz Knight, helps an avid online shopper avoid disaster.

Q: I do a lot of my shopping online, from buying my groceries to seeking out good deals on clothing from overseas websites. It had never occurred to me that this might be a risky thing

A: You’re right to be concerned — your stolen information can be sold to the highest bidder on the dark web.

Once a hacker gets access to your details, they may try to access your email account, steal your identity, impersonate you and try to gain access to your other accounts, including your bank account.

Their main goal will be to extort money from you. They could also target your contacts and trick them into providing their details as well.

First things first

When you’ve been notified that your details have been breached, the very first thing you should do is change your account password on the company’s website.

It’s possible the hacker will try to hack into your other online accounts as well, so if you’ve been using the same password on other sites, you should change your password for all those sites.

If you were notified your credit card details were breached, then it would be wise to request a replacement credit card from your bank. Be sure to say you have had your card compromised; otherwise, they will reissue a new card with the same number as your old one (which means it could be still used illegally).

Remember: Long, strong, unique

It’s really important to use a different password for each online account you create — that way if your password is compromised, the hacker only has access to that one site, and it will be harder for them to access your other accounts.

All your passwords need to be long, strong and unique. Try to make your passwords really hard to guess by using a combination of letters, numbers and special characters.

You might want to use a password manager app such as ‘Keeper’ or ‘Bitwarden’ to store your passwords, as it can be tricky to remember them all!

Saving card details?

Online stores often offer to save your payment details so it’s quicker at the checkout next time you shop with them — you’re better to avoid saving your details in this way. It’s a bit annoying to have to enter your card number each time, but it’s much worse if your card details are stolen, and you end up with fraudulent transactions that you have to pay for.

Another thing to look out for is whether the websites you are using offer the option to use a one-time code to confirm it’s you making a purchase. I like to use PayPal for my online shopping as PayPal sends me a text message with a one-time code each time a transaction is made with my account. This method means that even if my password was stolen and my account was hacked, no transactions could proceed without the code from my phone.

If you think your bank account has been breached and money taken, report it to the police and contact your bank to see if they can assist. If you feel like you are in danger as a result of your accounts being compromised, contact the police straight away for advice on what you can do.

Liz Knight leads the Cyber Security team at Theta, and has global experience across industries including finance, technology, health, and telecommunications. Her team supports many of New Zealand’s top organisations, protecting them against sophisticated cyber threats.

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