Online shopping

6 online shopping security threats and how to avoid them

Online shopping is one of the advantages of modern society. Once you have an internet connection, you can buy just about anything from the comfort of your home without breaking a sweat.

But cybercriminals work hard to deprive buyers like you of your hard-earned money. Are you giving up online shopping because of them? It would be overkill. You can go about your business taking the necessary precautions to stay safe.

Shopping on mobile phone

Online shopping is a public favorite because of its convenience and simplicity. Although it has been popular for several years now, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused it to grow exponentially. People who usually preferred in-store shopping had no choice but to buy things online due to movement restrictions.

The pandemic has caused a shift in consumer behavior, with the preference for online shopping taking center stage, even long after movement restrictions were lifted.

As more and more people turn to digital purchases, there are concerns about their security, as this medium is susceptible to threats. According to a recent study, there is a projected 18% growth in e-commerce fraud from 2020 to 2021 globally. Research shows an increase in cyber fraud as more people embrace e-commerce. This reiterates the need for you to protect yourself while shopping online, so that you don’t become a victim.

Online purchase transaction

Since cyber scams are hidden and executed in unsuspected ways, the pitfalls of online shopping are not always under your nose. And that is because cyber criminals devise various tactics to execute their attacks.


It is a question of information. The more aware you are of fraud when shopping online, the more likely you are to detect when something is fishy.

Let’s take a look at some online shopping threats.

1. Unencrypted data

Data encryption is one of the primary web application security practices. When you enter sensitive data such as your credit card details on a website, you expect your data to be secure with proper encryption within the web application. But it’s not always the case.

Some websites do not encrypt data. They operate on outdated SSL certificates and HTTP protocols which make them vulnerable to attacks. Any website whose URL starts with HTTP instead of HTTPS is not secure, that’s a red flag. Google has already started marking these sites as unsafe to warn users.

2. Adware

You have probably already seen these unsolicited advertisements popping up on your screen while you are browsing online. They are known as adware, adware that generates revenue for its owner(s).

Under normal circumstances, adware is legitimate and offers products with deep discounts. But cybercriminals are now using it to launch attacks. Adware can be encrypted with malware to lure you to malicious websites. When you get to the website, they will ask you for your personal information including your credit card details.

Sometimes, when you try to close the pop-up advertisement by clicking on the “X” symbol, it triggers an infection.

3. Impersonation

One of the most common security risks associated with online shopping is identity theft. Cybercriminals can hack into private websites and steal users’ login credentials or credit card details. If they are not impersonating users by making unauthorized purchases, they are selling their personal information online.

Many online shoppers often fall victim to identity theft during the holidays due to an increase in online shopping.

4. Fake online stores

Not all e-commerce sites are genuine. Some are run by cyber criminals with the aim of stealing your money and personal information.

Fraudulent sellers promote online stores and advertise products, but never deliver the orders placed. In some cases, they make too-good-to-be-true promotional offers on social media and lead you to their fake site, where they harvest your data.

5. Data breaches

A data breach occurs when hackers gain unauthorized access to web application data. When you enter your personal information on websites while shopping online, you run the risk of having your information exposed in the event of a data breach.

Although it is the responsibility of e-commerce store owners to secure their web applications, you should be careful about the information you provide.

6. Unsecured Wi-Fi

Using an unsecured Wi-Fi network for online shopping is not such a good idea as it allows the movement of data over networks without encryption. This creates an opportunity for hackers to position themselves between you and the connection point.

With this setup, the hacker can get any personal information you drop on a provider’s server, such as login credentials, credit card details, and email address.

Online payment

Recognizing the presence of cybercriminals is a good start to protecting yourself when shopping online. This way you are aware of your interactions.

Hackers prey on network vulnerabilities and human error. Learn how to secure your network and the right things to do.

1. Update your browser and operating system

Keep your devices and operating system clean by updating the current version of apps and software running on them. These updates protect Internet-connected devices from online vulnerabilities and attacks.

Do not ignore system update notifications. They improve the security of your system and protect you from online shopping scammers.

2. Use strong anti-virus/anti-malware software

Hackers can inject viruses and malware into your device without physical contact and hijack your personal information. You can prevent this by installing trustworthy antivirus or anti-malware software.

Built with an advanced algorithm, the software detects malicious activities. It even goes so far as to prevent you from unknowingly logging into a malicious website.

3. Avoid using debit cards

Using a credit card to shop online is much safer than using a debit card. And that’s because a credit card offers better consumer protection in case something goes wrong.

If you pay for products with your credit card and the products are not delivered to you, you can dispute this with the card company. Plus, if hackers steal your card details and make unauthorized purchases, you won’t incur the cost once you report it promptly.

4. Implement script blockers

A script blocker is a smart extension that provides an extra layer of security for browsers. It is used to block unnecessary and harmful scripts like JavaScript and iframes in the retail stores you visit.

Installing a script blocker on your browser prevents you from falling victim to hackers who take advantage of vicious scripts to exploit users.

5. Avoid insecure websites

When shopping online, be sure to buy from websites that encrypt your information. Otherwise, hackers can access your transaction details and steal your data when you make a payment.

Avoid websites that don’t have HTTPS in their URL or a padlock icon next to the URL. The closed padlock indicates that your personal information is encrypted.

6. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Free access points available in public places are not immune to attacks. Whenever you’re looking for what to buy online, be sure to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This is an online service that protects you when using public networks.

An effective VPN disguises your online identity and encrypts your internet traffic, making it difficult for hackers to track your online activities and steal your data.

Cybercriminals take advantage of online vulnerabilities to defraud buyers. Unfortunately, that’s not going to stop anytime soon.

But the good news is that you can protect yourself.

Putting a little effort into cultivating security measures for online shopping can save you from huge dangers. The next time you shop online, be vigilant. Don’t just focus on good products and discounts; also watch out for cyber threats.

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