Ultimate Guide: Security
- by Christopher Jones
- Published: 15 July 2010
The Ultimate Guide: Shopping for bicycles and gear online is a multipart report with tips, trends and analysis of the Australian Market. You can download the ebook version here. This part looks at security.
As a consumer, you should be able to assume that both your personal information and your payment are secure. None the less, it is important to check each and every time that you shop online. While security isn’t as critical when you are just browsing or adding items to your shopping cart, SSL security should be active during registration and payment. SSL means Secure Socket Layer and indicates that the information being passed between your computer and the server on which the website sits is encrypted, the chance of a third party being able to decipher the information passed is remote.
There are two indicators that a website is SSL secure, firstly the URL. Rather than the typical http:// preceding the www address, it becomes https:// to indicate that it is secure. In addition, all standard browsers display a ‘closed lock’ symbol (within the browser, often at the bottom) when the connection is secure. Be aware however that hackers and criminals attempt to trick others into believing a site is secure to gain private information by creating fake websites with deceptive content. To be certain that the site really is secure and genuine, in most browsers you can click on the lock symbol (or alternatively choose to view the website information via the browser menu and locate the security information). Choose to view the details about the website “certificate”. In the certificate you need to check that the web address (URL) listed in the certificate matches the URL of the site you are currently viewing. If this is not the case then there is a chance that the website is not genuine or that the website has not been setup correctly and doesn’t properly secure the information you provide against prying eyes.
It is worth noting that SSL secure web content often takes longer to load and while the slower speeds may be noticeable, it is not a cause for concern.
All online retailers need a ‘payment provider’ when accepting payment via credit card or direct debit. The best online shops provide sufficient information to inform the customer who their payment provider is and the procedure for payment. Whether the credit card / direct debit page is seamlessly integrated within the payment process or is displayed in a popup window, it is critical that these pages are also SSL secure.
As a note, when you enter credit card details and then press the button to submit your payment, it is not unusual that it takes a while to process – during this step there is usually an initial check for fraud by the payment provider. Even with precautions ensuring that the payment process is SSL secure, credit card theft can still occur. If you have a ‘hacked’ computer, others may be able to view and steal private data. Personal computer security is important and it is worthwhile keeping anti-virus software up-to-date as well as learning secure internet surfing tactics.
Except for external security breaches which neither a shop nor shopper can influence (e.g. credit card number generators), there is also the potential for a security breach at the shop itself or with the payment provider. While payment systems differ, the better systems hide the credit card number from the retailer and simply notify the retailer whether the credit card transaction was successful or not.
If credit card details are stolen, aside from the initial shock and inconvenience, the good news is that there is usually never a financial loss for the card holder. Sometimes, banks who notice successful and unsuccessful fraud attempts may contact affected customers even before the customer notices. When shopping online, it makes sense to carefully check credit card statements when they arrive so that any discrepancies can be quickly resolved.
This is article is from The Ultimate Guide: Shopping for bicycles and gear online. You can download the entire ebook (free) from here.
You can discuss this article and the ebook in the Australian Cycling Forums.