University cybersecurity expert says be cautious when shopping online – Osage County Online | Osage County News

University cybersecurity expert says be cautious when shopping online

By Lindsey Elliott
K-State Research and Extension

MANHATTAN — If you’re worried about a data breach when making those holiday purchases on Black Friday and CyberMonday, there isn’t much you can do, according to a cybersecurity expert from Kansas State University.

“In general, when you’re looking at the compromises we’ve seen recently, they are compromises on the back-end of big retailers who do lots and lots of business,” said Eugene Vasserman, assistant professor of computing and information sciences. “There’s very little anyone can do to protect themselves against this sort of compromise where the back-end systems of a merchant were used to either extract past transactions or were monitoring transactions in real time.”

Risks are involved with every form of payment you may choose. For example, cash cannot be hacked into electronically, but if you are carrying a large amount of cash, there is the possibility of theft or mugging. Credit cards can be compromised, but most companies provide fraud coverage. Debit cards usually offer the same protection, but the stolen funds are coming directly from your bank account.

Retail stores are vulnerable to data breaches just like websites, Vasserman said. He encourages shoppers to only use reputable websites.

“Scammers have the ability to make emails or even websites look very closely to the real thing, so be careful when clicking links, downloading attachments and typing in the URL,” Vasserman said. “Be very careful when doing business with websites with whom you’ve never done business before.”

Although the weekend after Thanksgiving may be the biggest shopping weekend of the year, Vasserman said people need to be careful with their purchasing habits every time they shop.

“Data breaches can happen at any time, and independent of when they happen, they may not be discovered for quite some time. So peak shopping period or no peak shopping period, this is a pervasive issue,” Vasserman said.

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