11 Tips to Shop Safely from a Smartphone

11 Tips to Shop Safely from a Smartphone
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Joseph Steinberg

Published on April 5, 2016


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As smartphones proliferate globally, mobile shopping by consumers is skyrocketing. While mobile ecommerce certainly improves convenience for people worldwide, it also creates serious security risks. Here are eleven tips to shop safely from smartphones:

1. Only shop from a smartphone that has security features enabled. Phones that are not protected with an unlock password, do not have remote-wipe enabled, and do not have security software running increase the likelihood of problems occurring. Likewise, ensure that the phone’s operating system and apps are current with updates. 

2. Run security software on your smartphone. The software should include features to detect malware as well as block access to known rogue websites. Some phones come with such software, others do not. Keep in mind that there is now malware that can intercept SMS second-factor authentication messages, and that can create customized phishing pages when a person accesses a bank online; popular shopping websites will likely not be far behind.

3. Do not run software on your phone if it is not from a recognized source, and never shop from a phone with questionable software on it. Obviously, download apps from only approved stores; the Apple App Store and Google Play are the official sources for iOS and Android apps, but some other stores such as Amazon’s Appstore are likely adequately trustworthy for most people as well. Remember, however, that there is no 100% guarantee that any app in any of these stores is safe – so don’t be the first to try out an app on a device that you plan to use for any sensitive tasks. 

4. When shopping, enter the URL of a site that you are accessing via a web browser, or, if need be, click a link to it that appears on another trusted site. Do not shop by clicking links sent to you via a text message or email. People often violate this rule when they receive offers of “super deals” via email or text message – resist the temptation. 

5. If you do not have access to a trusted WiFi connection, use your cellular connection to shop and turn off WiFi while shopping. 

6. Preferably turn off Bluetooth and NFC while shopping. 

7. As is my recommendation with all online shopping, use a credit card, not a debit card, to pay for goods and services purchased from a mobile device. Especially if you are purchasing from a vendor with whom you have not previously conducted business, use one-time credit card numbers if possible. 

8. Make sure you are shopping using encryption (HTTPS and not HTTP)

9. If you are shopping in a public place make sure nobody can see your screen or fingers when you enter sensitive information. 

10.When installing a vendor’s app from which you plan to shop, make sure you are installing the official app supplied by the vendor, and not a third-party alternative. 

11. Exercise common sense – if some deal sounds “too good to be true”, it probably is.

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About the Author

The author is the CEO of SecureMySocial, is a renowned cyber security thought leader and author of several books on the topic, including (ISC)2’s official study guide for the CISSP-ISSMP exam. Recognized by Onalytica as one of the top cyber-security influencers in the world, he is also the inventor of several IT Security technologies widely-used today; his work is cited in over 100 published US patent filings. He is also one of only 28 people worldwide to hold the suite of advanced information-security certifications, CISSP, ISSAP, ISSMP, and CSSLP, indicating that he possesses a rare, robust knowledge of information security that is both broad and deep.


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