Online Safety Basics

It’s a trust issue. Internet denizens use technology to research, learn, communicate, and sooner or later, purchase something online. This article covers basic website features which tell if a website is worthy of your time and trust before using any of your credit lines online.

Before you jump into that big blue ocean of the World Wide Web there are a few signs you should take notice of to steer away from sharks and other creatures that co-inhabit the Internet.  This is not a scare tactic, you simply have to accept the practical truth these “sharks” do lurk out there and that anybody can be a victim.

These lurkers are actually very intelligent people. They can gather insurmountable amounts of personal data, which are strewn all over the web, and then compile and refocus it to be a marketing campaign tool = junk mail or much worse.  Face it, there is more than a 90% chance that if you are a surfing online denizen, you have already posted your name, address, and perhaps even phone number on a social networking site. 

With the help of a good designer, programmer, and copywriter, these sharks can lure a good number of people just like you; and with great aplomb “bait” you to give up even more personal matters that can lead to social or financial disaster.

A good example would be flower delivery services. This covers almost the entire world and remains one of the most popular Internet services available today, next to emailing and social networks. It seems like a low-risk deal but whom can you really trust with your personal IDs, messages, and credit/bank ID?  Online transactions nary need a physical signature anymore, so what businesses need to operate on are safeguards on top of other safeguards. 

Websites can be hosted from anywhere in the world but there are four main signs/marks/seals or logos to look for which have propelled the commercial side of the web forward by placing its anointment of trust to only the worthy websites.

First look for a Privacy Policy.  Any website that collects any form of information should have one. Maybe a seal or logo or a link to a company statement on how it promises – “beyond a shadow of a doubt” how it will handle your personal information and any transaction done through the website. 

This to my knowledge was one of the earliest implemented standards that reputable commercial websites inculcated that placed a blanket and binding trust agreement between itself and its clients.  Beyond customer satisfaction, this covers that all your information will strictly be used for official business only. 

Secondly, look out for a Business Verification seal.  This is a country-dependent verification service that has proven that the web entity is a genuine, registered business entity with full accountability.  This means that if your roses don’t arrive or arrive in a poor state then there are real people you can run after and complain to.

Thirdly, look for an SSL Certificate.  The most known “Secure Sockets Layer” Certificate authority in the world is Verisign.  This is like a combination of the Privacy policy and the Business Verification plus much more.  This is the certificate that encrypts and protects all information from the “buy” button on that website all the way to the endpoint or the server of the credit/debit card company and back again, all in a snap. 

This not only protects the customer and the seller but the banks as well.

Lastly, look for a Vulnerability Scan Mark.  McAfee is lonely at the top of this field. Being elders in the anti-virus field, it has risen above the rest and now tests and guarantees websites for being hacker safe.  As I mentioned before these sharks and lurkers are very intelligent people and will only stop when they get frustrated. 

Now with the tens of millions of websites out there, only a handful can successfully get this Vulnerability Scan Mark, because these elders will not stop until you fix all the issues your website has. It doesn’t stop there, since hackers also continue to improve their skills over time, the McAfee service counters this by redoing the scan 365 days a year.

Yup, all year round and throughout all occasions.

We are creatures of habit. So before you commit to an online service provider, which more than likely you will be using again and again (because it’s just so easy), look for these four things.  Barring any Acts of God, these four “promises” will virtually guarantee that each time you do engage in online commerce everything will come up smelling like roses.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Timothy Spencer

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