Looking to complete some last-minute holiday shopping for your friends and family? Whether it be a Christmas gift for your grandparents, a stellar gift for your office Secret Santa or a New Years gift for your significant other, amidst the craze of finding the best deals on your shopping, it’s always important to maintain vigilance and keep your online browsing (and shopping) secure.
Below is our quick guide to making sure you’re not only safe while online shopping, but also that you find the best deals.
Make sure the website is encrypted
Be smart with the websites you enter your financial information, such as credit cards. When carrying out online purchases, make sure that the website’s URL starts with “https://”; the “s” at the end indicates that your connection is encrypted and is crucial. The ‘s’ signifies that the website has SSL encryption, meaning that all traffic is secure.
Don’t purchase from websites that do not have it.
Two ways you can easily tell if a site is encrypted is:
- The web address will begin with “https://” rather than “http://”
- If you choose to use Google Chrome browsers you will see a small padlock to the left of the address bar.
It’s important to note that “https” encryption works whether or not you’re connected to the VPN. But, a VPN and “https” encryption paired together will keep you highly secure.
[More tips on how to protect yourself while internet browsing here.]
Use a VPN
Make sure you use a VPN!
A VPN (a virtual private network) is the most effective and easiest way for people to protect their internet activity and identity private online. It helps achieve anonymity and privacy online by rerouting and encrypting your internet traffic.
[More on what a VPN is here.]
When shopping online, make sure to secure yourself and your digital identity by using a VPN and protecting your payment details, account information, and shopping history.
However, a VPN is not only useful for security when online shopping but also for finding the best deals. Many companies tailor their services' prices according to your geographical region - such as flights, hotel packages, media subscriptions, games, and more. By using a VPN, you can check whether or not your favorite shop is using such practices and decide whether it is worth it to make the purchase, or if you should take your business elsewhere.
Mysterium VPN has over 1800 servers across more than 80 countries around the world for you to choose from.
Extensions, price tracking and more
There are many different tools and extensions, whether it be actual websites or browser extensions/add-ons that can help you when shopping online.
Add-ons that sweep the internet for coupons and cash-back offers can be very helpful in finding additional discounts to already seasonal holiday and New Year sales. Price tracking tools, that skim and bring up past prices of products as well as compare prices of similar or the same product across different retailers are also conducive to making sure you catch the best deal.
However, one thing to note while using extensions and price-tracking tools is that these tools can provide the insights that they do through means such as cookies, collecting user data and intrusive ISP information on users.
Therefore, it’s very important that while you’re doing your shopping, you’re not doing so at the risk of your own digital privacy.
Top 3 ways to stay safe while browsing
Below are three easy methods that you can use this holiday season to ensure maximum safety.
1. Be smart with your personal information
Be careful of where you enter your personal and financial information and which information you give away to online retailers when carrying out a purchase, such as your credit card number, birth date, full name, etc.
We suggest that you opt for shopping as a “guest” user, rather than creating an account on the website and refrain from saving your financial information on websites in the event the company’s network or website is breached.
(Also don’t forget to make sure that the website’s URL starts with “https://” not “http://”)
2. Block ads and be selective with cookies
While your selected browser or a privacy add-on can protect you from your ISP (internet service provider) and other online advertisers from tracking your profile, you can increase your level of privacy when online shopping even more by choosing to block all ads.
Similarly, you should also limit when you enable cookies for websites. Website cookies are the details websites ask permission to store on your computer, including what other websites you have visited and what you did on them.
3. Avoid shopping on unsafe networks
Although the temptation to quickly buy something online while surfing a shopping app on your phone in your local cafe can be high, you should avoid shopping online and entering important personal and financial information while using public Wi-Fi networks.
The most effective way to protect your digital entity when not at home is to use a VPN such as Mysterium VPN to connect to the internet. A VPN will make sure to encrypt and secure your data online making it harder to tap into and steal. Using a VPN, especially when online shopping, is crucial to maintaining your digital privacy and protecting your personal information from online threats.
Although most websites keep the information from cookies to themselves, it is always best to limit cookies and block ads to only be enabled for websites that require them.
The only guaranteed way to protect your online assets 100% is to do your shopping in person, but we know that’s not always possible. So, whether you’ll be shopping in-person or online this holiday season, make sure to stay safe.