As the world continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, cyber-criminals are busy exploiting the situation to lure naive shoppers. Due to the whole social distancing, more and more people are resorting to online shopping rather than going to a physical store. This huge shift has also led to increased criminal activities. Government officials have been warning about the dangers that come with e-commerce for a while now.
Since February 1st, in the United Kingdom alone, there has been a rise in coronavirus and COVID-19 themed crime reports, with reported losses totaling to $1.14 million. Most of these reports involve online shopping frauds. In which the fraudsters claim to sell necessary products such as hand sanitizers, face masks, gloves, so on. However, they deliver nothing after you have paid for the product.
Hackers are also using the COVID-19 pandemic to trick users into downloading and executing malware on their devices. Once the malware is executed, they go about exploiting as they wish. Some are even bombarding online users with phishing messages with a coronavirus twist to fool them into clicking spammy links. In most of these cases, we have seen that the scammers pose as reputable organizations such as Hopkins, World Health Organization (WHO), United States Center for Disease Control, and other organizations. Since more people are desperate to know more about this new pandemic, they are likely to fall into their trap.
Hence, it is extremely important that you learn to protect yourself. We have compiled a list of e-commerce security measures that you can apply right away to ensure your safety in these trying times. Read on to find out.
How to ensure safety amidst the COVID-19 crisis
While we observe a high level of hygiene, quarantine, lockdowns, and social distance, we should not forget to ensure safety while working from home or making online purchases.
The following are a few things you can do to stay safe:
1. Update your devices
A lot of malicious software takes advantage of the vulnerabilities in the applications that we commonly use, such as browsers and operating systems.
Hence, make sure you are running an updated version of these programs. If you haven’t already updated to the latest versions, don’t brush off or postpone that pop-up message requiring you to update your systems. Do it now.
New updates come with more enhanced security features and bug fixes that seal up possible doorways hackers may exploit.
2. Watch out for phishing sites and emails
Cyber-criminals commonly use phishing emails and sites to siphon credit card details and personal information. Avoid paying upfront money or revealing your sensitive data to any website until you have verified that it is 100% legit.
A typical phishing website or email usually has attractive content and crazy offers for highly-demand products. For instance, the essentials needed to fight against COVID-19.
Some of the potentially dangerous domains as detected by Bernardo Quintero, founder of VirusTotal are (Source: Forbes):
3. Use strong passwords
While using simple passwords helps you remember it easily, hackers can likely take advantage of this. Therefore, it is recommended to use only hard-to-guess passwords on your accounts.
You can also use a password generator to create a random string of 12 or so characters, and use that as a password. Yes, remembering that might not be easy, a password manager can come in handy for this.
Furthermore, configure automatic locks on your devices when not in use or when it is inactive for a certain time. It helps encrypt your content in the device until you enter the password.
4. Use Firewalls and anti-virus software
If you’re an e-commerce merchant yourself, you must strive to protect your store from fraudsters. You can do this by investing in a security solution for your website, which comes with a range of security tools.
Further, most operating systems and routers come with built-in firewalls. Enable them before using your devices to prevent attacks.
Your browsers and other computer systems also need to be safe from the heightened malware attacks. Keep those viruses at bay by using good anti-virus software.
5. Use multi-Factor authentication
While strong passwords are hard to crack, hackers are always reinventing new and complicated hacking methods. Therefore, you must employ a multi-layer authentication system to stay safe.
For example, if you set up two-factor authentication, you will receive a verification SMS or email every time you enter your password. So even if your password is stolen, a hacker faces a hard time logging into your account.
6. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Virtual Private Network is a great way to minimize threats as they happen to be encrypted. This ensures no one drops in on your data transfers or searches and steals them. In the absence of a VPN, any hacker that might be listening to the communication between you and the intended recipient can easily read your sensitive information.
The world is going through a depressing moment that requires maximum vigilance and safety on both a personal and digital level. To lower the chances of contracting COVID-19, more and more people are practicing social distancing and working remotely. Due to the closing of brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce sales for essentials have shot up.
However, cyber-criminals are taking advantage of the situation to cast their evil nets wider. As fear continues to drive people to look for information and solutions to this new pandemic, fake websites with fake solutions are on the rise. Therefore, you need to keep yourself safe both online and offline to keep both the virus and the hackers away. We believe that our cyber safety tips will keep you safe and sound.