Stay Safe During the Last-Minute Holiday Rush: Protect Your Data When Shopping

December 22, 2014

9:00 pm

The holiday rush is here, but that doesn’t mean you should skimp on security. Being with your loved ones and giving gifts is a major part of this time of year. But, before giving any present, one has to buy them. Knowing this, hackers and cyber criminals take advantage of the rise in online shopping to attack and steal money and personal information from shoppers.

This phenomenon is obviously not constricted to the holidays, and it does happen throughout the year. But it’s especially noticeable now, when people tend to use the Internet for their shopping; this makes them easy targets for experienced hackers. But there are some simple steps that, when taken, can really make a difference in security.

A great deal of online navigation is made utilizing cookies. They are small pieces of data, stored in web browsers, that allow for websites to keep a sort of “state information”, using cookies to record previous visits from a specific user, to know that user’s preferences, keep the user’s items in the shopping cart on subsequent visits, and so on.

While cookies cannot carry viruses or install malware, they can indeed be tracked. Hackers with access to cookies can know someone’s habits and, on insecure websites, even get some important information like credit card data. With this in mind, experts recommend that online shopping should be done using Virtual Machines, much harder to track and break, or to stop the use of cookies on sensitive sites.

Yet another option is to use a software with cookie cleaning capabilities, like CCleaner. Amongst other features, this software can clean cookies from several different browsers for good, much like what a paper shredding service does with physical documents.

But there is more to it. If your computer is under attack, hackers can possibly gain access to the files stored on a computer’s hard drive, compromising the integrity of your data, so users should always try to be one step ahead. When dealing with offline files, people think that a simple deletion will suffice, but that is hardly the case.

However, when a file is deleted, only the reference of the file is removed from the file system table, while the file remains on the disk until another file is created over it. In truth, even after that it might be possible to recover data, by studying the magnetic fields on the disk platter surface.

This is when a software like Eraser comes handy. Eraser is an advanced security tool that allows users to safely delete files from their drives, that gets this security by overwriting those files or folders several times, making it almost impossible for anyone to recover them using the methods mentioned above.

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25 y/o, born and living in Portugal. Majored in Biology, but tech and computers were always a passion. Wrote for sites like Windows.Appstorm and MakeTechEasier.

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