With sales in online retail expected to grow by 18.4% in 2015 and exceed €220 billion in 2016, there can be little doubt that E-Commerce is the fastest growing retail market in Europe. The benefits to the consumer, such as convenience, price comparison, variety and discretion make shopping online increasingly attractive. Interestingly, the birth of the smartphone has seen a shift in how we shop online with research indicating that over 50% of Irish smartphone users have made a purchase via their phone. While in recent years awareness has increased regarding internet safety when purchasing online via a desktop or laptop, purchasing via a mobile device is a relatively new phenomenon and it is questionable whether the same diligence is shown by users. The fact that over 90% of smartphones in 2014 did not contain pre-loaded security software is a worrying statistic and while mobile internet safety is a rapidly developing area in IT, the current situation is something which hackers are keen to exploit.
Safety Tips for Mobile Shopping
Here we look at some tips to ensure that you are safe when using your mobile device to shop online.
Avoid Using Public Wi-Fi
The lack of encryption on public Wi-Fi networks means that anyone can see what you send. The most basic hacking software can enable anyone to capture packets of data across unsecure networks. Therefore it is important not only to avoid purchasing on public Wi-Fi, but also to be prudent with regard to content you view over a public network.
Use Mobile Anti-Virus Protection
Ensuring that your mobile device contains mobile security software is a must. Mobile malware has been on the increase with the growth in mobile devices. Products that scan apps for viruses, spyware, and block dangerous websites are necessary to enable secure shopping online.
Use Legitimate Apps and App Stores
Most of the major retailing companies have their own apps, eg. Amazon, Ebay. These allow for price comparison, reader reviews and often target the user with specialised offers to suit their preferences. Before downloading it is important to confirm the apps authenticity. Read reviews ratings and developer information to confirm reliability.
Always Use https When Inputting Personal Information
When entering personal information via a mobile device it is vital to use the same diligence as when a PC or laptop is being used. Be certain that the page website has SSL (secure sockets layer). This can be confirmed by using a site that begins with https. On a site that has http only, a hacker can gain access to personal information such as passwords, user names and credit card numbers.
Update Your Browser App
Always ensure that you have the very latest version of any of the mobile browsers such as Chrome, Firefox or Safari. All have built in security features which can protect you device from malware.
Be Careful What You Click On
Be selective with regard to what emails you open on your mobile device, as you would on you PC or laptop. Many can be phishing attempts or malware attacks. Telltale signs can include requests for information, poor grammar and spelling and poor design work.
While this may seem like common sense, it is of huge importance. There has been a significant increase in data and information theft at ATMs through people getting too close, prompting people to shield login credentials. The same vigilance is needed with your mobile device. Protect sensitive information and use an online payment service like PayPal when making a purchase so your cards stay in your wallet.
More Choice and Convenience
The convenience and functionality of the mobile device has opened new doors with regard to online retailing. Some consumers now use bricks and mortar stores to view goods and then look for the cheapest price online, while others focus on reading reviews of products online before making decision to purchase in-store, which has led to an omni-channel retailing strategy for many brands.
Consumers can avail of dedicated online retail days such as “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday”, while out of the home and on the go. On days such as these, hackers increase their efforts to dupe both the customer and the retailer, so ensuring that you are using verified apps is particularly important as hackers attempt to create fake profiles and pages for brands.
The Future is Mobile
Research indicates that with future technological advances such as augmented reality, the use of our mobile devices will become even more prominent in both online retail and everyday life. Vendors such as Vodafone are beginning to roll out mobile payment systems across Europe having already implemented similar strategies in developing countries, where access to bank accounts can be limited. Therefore, it must be argued that the significance in ensuring that your device is operating safely online should carry the same importance as safeguarding your home or your car from theft or damage.