Oct 22, 2018

Website Worries

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“Ask The Experts” is written and provided by Scholarship Media. It does not reflect the views of The Collegian or its advertisers.

I know this is weird for a college kid to say, but I don’t like buying things online. I know we’ve all agreed that Amazon and the rest of the big online retailers are secure, but it really weirds me out that I’m handing my credit card information over to someone I can’t see. How do I know that smaller online retailers won’t steal my information? How do I know that hackers won’t? I don’t want my financial information floating around in the web, or in the “cloud” (which I don’t totally understand, to be honest), or anywhere else where bad people might be able to access it. Can you convince me that my financial data will never be compromised in this way?

We can’t! The fact is, it’s always possible that your financial information may become compromised. Security experts work hard to keep that from happening, of course: Skyhigh, a company that makes cloud access security brokers (software programs that act as security buffers between cloud services and their users), says that web data security is a priority for all major internet companies, especially retailers and other companies that have your financial information. Security is a top priority for any web retailer, the online gifts experts GiftBlooms told us–after all, without customers who trust ecommerce, retail sites wouldn’t last long!

But, of course, web security is tough. The exploits that bad guys use are constantly changing, and web security experts need to make sure they close each hole in security without opening a new one. It’s a lot harder to fully understand complete web security than it is to get lucky in finding one vulnerability, so true security remains a moving target.

In a way, this isn’t so different from how it’s always been. You’ve no doubt willingly parted with your credit card in many transactions–you hand it to waiters and cashiers willingly, and you read it off over the phone to pizza shops and take-out places. Credit cards are on the front lines by their nature, which is why companies spend big bucks to detect fraud and protect consumers. Many companies reimburse customers for fraudulent purchases, and there are also third-party companies that exist only to protect your identity and financial information from theft and abuse.

That’s not to say, of course, that there aren’t risks. Cybercrime and identity theft are huge problems in the United States, where $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million Americans last year. It may be worth investing in a service that helps pinpoint identity theft quickly.

In the end, the most important thing to do is to use common sense. Make sure that your passwords are strong and are changed often. Be careful on social media, where 600,000 Facebook accounts are compromised every day. Double-check URLs to make sure you’re dealing with the site you think you are before you start handing over your data. If you do all of this, you’ll be better protected. Keep your computer up-to-date, because hackers love to use the outdated software exploits that 99% of our computers remain vulnerable to thanks to our own laziness. And if a leak does affect you, don’t panic! Our financial institutions and tech companies have plans in place for just this sort of occurrence.

“I don’t need to worry about identity theft because no one wants to be me.” — Jay London

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