Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Shopping Online Safely

It is possible to shop and bank online safely, as long as you learn how the hackers attack shoppers, and how to out-smart the jerks. It really isn't that hard, with the proper tools and skills.
First of all, you need to understand HOW hackers can access your credit card numbers, your log-ins to Facebook, bank accounts, and places where they can steal your information. Primarily, there are two ways hackers can access this information--through installing a "keylogger" on your computer, or by remotely accessing your computer where they can actually see your screen and navigate through your computer. Both of these are considered malware, or a virus, and should be repaired by a professional to ensure that the bug is gone for good. (see how to avoid viruses in our other blogs on this site)
Keyloggers are programs that are installed on your computer by hackers where they can capture everything you type, and sift through it to steal credit card numbers, logins--just think of everything you type! Remote access is exactly that--someone on the other side of the world has installed a program on your computer and he/she can actually take control of your computer and see everything in it, and watch you as you type. One of the scariest remote access repairs we ever did was brought in when the hacker used her webcam to take a picture of her sitting at her computer and displayed it on her screen! This is not for the weak of heart, and we must be extremely well-informed of the possibilities of hackers.
There are several precautions that will protect you, and allow you to shop and bank safely online.
1) Wireless internet: to protect your wireless connection, consider installing a hardware firewall.
2) Make 100% certain that you are shopping on a safe, secure website. Look for https in the web address, and if this is not present, under no circumstances shop there. If you are suspicious of a website, submit it to for a free evaluation to ensure that the site does not contain a virus, or a malicious software application.
3) Use a credit card or Paypal, over a debit card. Credit cards have some built-in protection, and Paypal is quite safe.
4) It is absolutely imperative these days to have some type of identity theft software. We recommend Norton Internet Security (NOT antivirus or Norton 360). Norton Internet Security maintains the highest ratings, year after year, as to efficiency, and the newer identity theft feature is a MUST for online shoppers or people on social networks. It is all we sell at Computer PRO. You set up the software to store all of your log-ins, passwords, credit card numbers, billing address, mailing address, expiration date of the card, even the little security code on the back. You can password this information twice in the software, so that it is only available to you and not to anyone who is on your computer. When you get to the log-in part of a website, Norton's will ask you if you want to organize this log-in, and the next time you go to the website, Norton's will automatically log you in! This enables you to avoid typing in the log-in and password--therefore not falling prey to a keylogger, and it encrypts the information so that even if a hacker can access your computer, they cannot read the log-in. This is a MUST for those of us who do online banking or bill-pay. The software does the same thing when you are shopping--when it gets to the check-out page, it automatically fills in everything--shipping address, credit card, and billing address. The unexpected beauty of it is that you no longer have to dig out your credit card, and type all of that in. Again, the information is not available to keyloggers, and it is safely encrypted.
Also, be aware of the security of the system you are on--never shop online at a public computer, like in a library, and be very careful in hotels and wi-fi areas. There have been reports of hackers with a laptop sitting in the parking lot at a coffee house stealing information from people inside.
If you follow these steps, you should have no problems spending your money online.