Browser hygiene tips for making online shopping safer

The fuller schedules and longer to-do lists of the holiday season often mean multi-tasking and stress. And busy, distracted people doing their holiday shopping online may be more susceptible to falling into malware traps that attempt to steal credit card info or banking passwords.

That’s why F-Secure Labs regards the holiday shopping season as the perfect time to tweak your Internet browsing habits with a simple browser hygiene tip that is useful throughout the whole year: Set up a separate, Java-free browser dedicated just to shopping and banking.

“People fall into traps online when they’re distracted or suffering from information overload,” says Sean Sullivan, Security Advisor at F-Secure Labs. “Too many tabs open, too many things going on – that’s when you’re most prone to click on a malicious link or download something you shouldn’t have.”

Various studies have shown that multi-tasking yields poor results and leaves one more prone to making mistakes. Segregating tasks and focusing on one thing at a time helps keep thoughts more focused. When you’re online in “serious financial mode,” you’ll be better able to spot malicious traps that try to compromise your sensitive financial info.

Because of all Java’s in-the-browser security issues, F-Secure recommends disabling it completely. But if a certain website you need to use requires Java, the best thing to do is enable Java in only one alternate browser that is used just for visiting that website.

Which browser to use for which purpose? It doesn’t necessarily matter, just so that you separate out your financial activities so you’re more on guard when conducting financial transactions. Someone who has Gmail and logs into YouTube a lot might want to use Chrome for fun, casual stuff, and another browser for shopping and banking.

Using different browsers for different tasks is “just good browser hygiene,” Sullivan says. “If you practice poor personal hygiene, you’re going to get sick. Similarly if you practice poor browser hygiene, you might end up getting another kind of virus.”

Browser hygiene tips:

  • Set up a dedicated browser just for conducting financial transactions like shopping and banking
  • Make sure all your browser plugins are up-to-date
  • Disable Java – unless you really need it for a certain site, then access that site with a separate Java-enabled browser
  • Home for the holidays? Help your parents get set up with a separate shopping/banking browser too.

Also, use good Internet security software that offers browsing protection from malicious websites, and banking protection to keep online banking sessions safe.

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