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How to Enhance Your Network Security and Save Money When Online Shopping

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Depending upon how you use the internet, and what devices you might use to access it, affects the level and nature of online security you should use. Likewise, your online shopping habits might be buying a few Christmas cards each year off eBay, or you might be an Amazon Prime customer who shops until they drop every day.

Let’s assume that the average internet-using household accesses the web via a couple of laptops and two or three wi-fi-enabled smartphones most days; all via the same domestic router. How can you ensure that all those devices remain safe from online nasties? And what are the top tips to save some money when using the internet for online shopping or booking flights and hotels? Let’s look at these one at a time.

Online security must-haves

The first question you should be able to answer is “What is my IP address?”. That might sound irrelevant at first, but it’s one of the most important issues when safeguarding your family and their devices online. This is because hackers and ‘phishermen’ (those who try to extort money via online financial scams) find active devices on the web using IP addresses. Through this address, they can trace your geographical location, perhaps even down to a couple of hundred yards, and they tend to attack wealthier areas, those with people likely to have large online bank balances or who shop online for big-ticket items.

1. First and foremost, you should use a secure and reputable internet connection, also make sure your Wi-Fi connection password is strong using a mixture of special characters and normal letters and numbers – not just ‘password’ or 1234567!

2. Keep your software and security measures up to date: make sure your browser and any antivirus software are to the latest specification, and that the background scanning for viruses is always switched on.

There’s an old saying: ‘if something’s free, you’re the product’, so beware of free antivirus software – pay a small amount of money each month by subscription instead- after all, you get what you pay for. And, by the way, Mac users, yes you can get Mac viruses nowadays, so always use a proprietary malware or ransomware scanner from the Mac App Store.

    3. Most importantly, use a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN encrypts your internet connection and hides your IP address, so phishing scams and hacks are much harder to achieve by internet baddies.

    You can download a VPN on each device you use as a browser extension within moments, or you can even, in some instances, install the VPN directly onto your router; thus covering any device on the network.

    4. A VPN also keeps you free from online surveillance by government agencies, and/or your Internet Service Provider (ISP). People living in certain countries with despotic dictators in charge might find a VPN that saves them from questioning or even arrest! As for the USA, the authorities claim that governments can only keep tabs on citizens’ online activity as part of an ongoing, authorized criminal investigation; but anyone who has watched the famous film ‘Enemy of the State’ might think differently!

    How to save money and stay secure when online shopping by using a VPN

    Some common-sense tips apply whether you decide to use a VPN or not when you’re shopping online:

    1. Use a credit card instead of a debit card, as the former offer more protection and refund rights than the latter. Let’s face it, if someone clones your debit card details, the money they steal comes straight from your bank account. But if you use a credit card, the funds are owed to the credit card company – simply not paying the credit card organization is a whole lot easier than getting money refunded from your bank!

    2. Only shop with reputable retailers that have secure websites and legal privacy policies. Look for the padlock icon in the address bar of your web browser. This means that the site will encrypt your personal information during any transactions.

    3. If you do use a VPN, it can hide your IP address to avoid you being charged a premium for geographically focused dynamic pricing. This is a strategy by which the price of a service such as a flight or a hotel varies based on your geographical location as you shop.

    The service provider can target specific markets in this way. For example, an airline might charge more to customers accessing their website from California than Oklahoma. Using a VPN, you can choose a server location even from a less affluent country, say Mexico, which can affect the cost of the vacation hotel you’re intending to book.

    Using a VPN to access Netflix

    Finally, don’t forget that streaming services like Netflix may restrict content based on a viewer’s IP address. The main reason is to comply with licensing agreements that they have with certain content providers. Also, sites like Disney + may offer different content in different markets to appeal to local tastes, perhaps some shows are available in Canada but not in the United States. A VPN can circumvent this geo-blocking by choosing a server in an appropriate location for their needs.

    In summary, you can stay safe online and save some money by installing a VPN on your devices or network. There’s really no reason not to do it.


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