Protect Your Online Payments: General Advice and Special Tools
The amount of people who switch to shopping and paying various charges through the Internet instead of visiting shops and offices considerably increases every year. No doubt, this method helps us save precious time and often money, avoid being short-changed, and in general expands our opportunities. However, there is an obvious flip side of the online payment: we are not fully protected from malefactors stealing our account information. Nobody can assure you that money won't start to disappear from your card after you've ordered headphones from eBay, or purchased a copy of software somewhere else. There can be multiple reasons for this leak and you should not blame the payment system or the suspected online shop. For example, it can be also spyware or a keylogger installed on your computer, that silently sends all your Internet activities records and keystrokes to frauds. So it's time to discuss how to get round possible disappointing outcomes of online transactions.
Shopsafe: should we trust Makeupbird?
As I already said, in case something goes wrong, it will be difficult to identify the perpetrator, still it doesn't mean that you should do online shopping on some fishy websites. In real life, we visit only reliable places, probably follow our friends' recommendations, so why won't we behave the same way when it comes to the Internet shopping? For example, such pages as shopsafe.co.uk or imrg.org allow you to judge the reliability of numerous online shops, based on reviews of other customers and special companies' investigations.
Another piece of advice is not to use the same password as you already set for your e-mail account and other shops and services. Once one account is broken, it is significantly easier to do the same with the others. Also make sure that the page where you are going to make a purchase is secure: look for a padlock near the URL address on the browser bar, and the URL itself should start with https://. Do not trust any padlock icons anywhere on the page!
As for the paying procedure, avoid using a card with a large sum of money on it - it's better to get a special one for the Internet payments. One more solution is to sign up for a PayPal account, as it is considered to be one of the most trustworthy Internet payment services. If you don't trust any third-party wallets and don't have a possibility to acquire a separate card, at least set an SMS confirmation of all the payment operations.
Get serious, use the special software
In case you are dealing with a big sum of money, it is safer to protect all your transactions with special software. The first level of protection is just using a virtual keyboard, which is, by the way, installed by default in both Windows and Mac operating systems; this way, you will not be detected by potential keyloggers stealing your personal information.
To get more serious and do not leave any traces of your payment activities in browsers, you can download some additional programs. For example, Avast Internet Security offers a so-called SafeZone feature besides its other numerous anti-virus functions. It can be compared with a virtual machine that has only a web browser and cannot be infected with spyware, adware or keyloggers due to the firewall and anti-phishing technologies. All you need is to set the wanted pages to be opened automatically in this environment.
Almost the same mechanism is used in the Bitdefender Safepay system. The difference is that you can download this payment security service separately from their antivirus. After launching, it will scan your computer for possible threats, and, if everything is fine, you will have an access to the built-in browser whose interface, by the way, resembles Chrome's one a lot. However, I mentioned the 'if everything is fine' phrase not vainly. In my case, an Application.Crack.PDE process was detected during the scan, and as a result I was offered only two buttons: Find a Solution or Exit. No need to explain what the latter means, and by clicking the former one you are redirected to the BitDefender Internet Security homepage. So yes, you can download it, but in fact it can be launched only in bundle with the main company's service. Nice move, BitDefender!
Opswat GEARS Session Shield start window
Another tool, Opswat GEARS allows you to create a secure desktop session (Session Shield): after finishing it, all the data generated, used and modified, cannot be accessed anymore, thus the risk of its exposure is eliminated. This way, you can not only browse the Internet, but use any of the compatible applications. The list includes Internet Explorer, iTunes, Microsoft Office, Skype, Media Player, and other popular applications. Moreover, you can try launching another program during the session; the developer just do not guarantee the absence of any errors. Unlike BitDefender, the Opswat product comes only as a standalone solution that also will scan your PC and return clear visual statistics.
Speaking of the software side, all these programs are helpful, but you should not forget about the elementary security procedures. Do not be lazy to launch a deep scan of your computer for viruses from time to time!
Picture credits: rudebaguette.com
Change my Windows.
Always use known sites. Never use other peoples computers or public computers. Keeping up-to-date the antivirus, anti-rootkit and malware software. Usually I have a secondary firewall like Comodo or make sure one is behind the router's firewall. Use anti-keylogging software and utilities like Kaspersky's Virtual Keyboard for typing passwords and pin codes. Using Linux instead of Windows as often as possible. Never log in to sites without HTTPS and higher level security systems. Keeping Java up-to-date, although not installing the new ones before it is sure that the latest is bugs-free. =)