Were you hacked in 2017? There’s a high chance you were, even if you may not have had money stolen, or even noticed you were. Were you shocked and shaken up by the realization that a stranger or even a group of people with bad intentions now has access to your private information? Or perhaps two weeks or even a month later, you forgot all about it and moved on because you were told your information was now secure and safe. Reality is, that’s not the case.
The information that was once provided, no matter how long ago, is still stored in merchants’ databases and/or is being traded on the Dark Web. It can often take organizations some time to discover what happened and in many cases it is too late.
As consumers, we download an endless number of apps and share our personal information. From our location to personal details, we leave our digital footprints everywhere we go, especially on social media. We save our credit cards to almost every online store to make for a more seamless experience and accommodate overall convenience. But despite Equifax and other major data breaches that have occurred this year, there hasn’t been much of a change in consumer behavior.
Here are four easy-to-follow steps to help you find the balance between security and convenience without sacrificing one over the other. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Don’t worry, you won’t need to adjust to an impractical and extreme lifestyle. You can continue taking Ubers and shopping online — and this time, without concern of your identity and personal information being stolen or sold on the black market.
Yes, it’s possible to pay without your real information.
Fortunately, we live in a world where bitcoin, tokenization, and blockchain are frequently discussed and that’s all about not storing your information for the world to steal. The beauty of bitcoin and blockchain is that transactions are anonymous. And in the spirit of anonymity is tokenization, meaning you can use tools like Apple Pay and Android Pay or other mobile apps that tokenize your payment information so that you’re shopping the same as always, but you’re not disclosing your true identity and giving away your personal information. It’s a win-win situation.
The benefit that these apps that tokenize your information provide is that if the merchants or retailers are attacked by hackers, you as consumers can confidently know your information was not disclosed. As technology continues to advance, there are apps built on secure algorithms that are designed to protect your personal shopping information, so you can have a more trusting online shopping experience.
Make All Purchases From a Secure Wi-Fi Network
We all tend to walk into a coffee shop and often jump on the free Wi-Fi networks or find one whenever it’s made available. Hackers view public Wi-Fi as an easy point of entry into your device. It’s always best to skip booking your travel tickets, insta-storying your lunch and making purchases on a public Wi-Fi network.
Don’t shop on shady sites. It’s that simple.
Common sense gets us far in life. It’s a safe bet that greatdeals.sales.free.com is not actually going to offer an authentic Michael Kors tote for $29.99. Another tried-and-true method is to only shop on sites where you see a small lock and “https” in the address bar. These two things are universally accepted signs of security on the World Wide Web. When you’re purchasing the perfect gift for your best friend online, and the site doesn’t have one or both of these icons, it’s in your best interest to purchase the same item elsewhere. Chances are, unless it’s truly a one of a kind product, you can find the same thing on eBay or Amazon. Even if it is one of a kind, find something equally unique on Etsy or a vintage store, not on a shady site.
Avoid social media ads.
Social media keeps connecting all of our social platforms and producing ads, but note this is not a sign to purchase that perfect purse. Social media ads are breeding grounds for fraudsters to fake the ad and lead you to an unsecured web site.
When it comes to online shopping, most of the power is at the hands of the brands and major merchants. Until recently, these companies that held the power focused their resources on increasing revenues as opposed to prioritizing the shoppers’ personal security and safety. This eventually led to a relationship where the trust was broken between consumers and merchants, but as this was brought to light, merchants are actively looking to bridge the gap restore trust with smarter security. In tandem with this, tokenized apps or platforms and tools such as PayPal or Android Pay are giving the power back to the consumer and a chance for merchants to once again create a secure online payment network.
There are long-term benefits to be had on both sides when retailers cooperate with security providers, and it is a true win-win for consumers and businesses.
Thanks to technology, we live and breathe a world where we have easy access to instant gratification. We have the privilege to get backpacks, diapers, books or soaps shaped like Finding Nemo characters delivered to us within hour; but when it comes to privacy and cybersecurity, there’s a big risk we’re not seeing when we constantly share payment information with online merchants. By following a few quick tips, you can reduce your chances of losing your data or even worse, your digital identity.
Remember when our parents used to tell us to be careful of strangers? You wouldn’t give your credit card to guy in a shady black coat, would you? So why do it online?
Yana Zaidiner is chief operating officer of Token.