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Secure Online Shopping - a Compliance and Privacy Survey

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Users are unaware of security in the online world

In our long running survey on user security awareness when shopping, which we opened in June 2006 and closed after four months, the results showed a sad lack, even in a security aware readership, of knowledge of basic aspects of online self protection.

Have you ever bought anything online?
have you ever bought something online?

We asked how many had ever bought anything online. At risk of sounding like Family Fortunes, our survey said that 85% of those who answered had done so. The survey did not split the remainder of the answers by sampling those who had versus those who had not done so. The questions were intended for the entire community who buy or consider buying online. Equally it did not consider the rationale for not buying online - a valid and interesting area for a future survey.

Do you check the padlock?When buying online, do you check for the padlock?

We asked if people check the padlock when they buy online. The padlock is the symbol which appears in different paces in different browsers and shows that the page is using SSL technology. This means that sending data to and form the website is itself secure, but, naturally, says nothing about what happens to the data when it is in the hands of the recipient.

We'd have expected a far higher percentage than 62% making this check when looking at the user community that visits this website.

Ever checked who provides protection?Have you ever checked who provides the encryption behind a secure site?

This question has an even more surprising answer. Looking again at the community who visit this site - security, compliance, privacy and other serious professional people, what in earth lulls them into a feeling of security here? Any site can self certify. It;s awkward to do, but not hard. And encryption is not the final aspect, but the total trust created by not only encryption, but validation of that encryption by the certificate being provided by an appropriate provider.

Yet only 26% of visitors here have ever checked. Does that mean it's hard to do?

Not at all! Click or double click the padlock depending in the browser and the full certification appears in a new window!

Ever been a victim of online fraud?Have you ever been a victim of online fraud?

How fortunate, then, that "only" 7% had been a victim of online fraud! There is scope in this population for at least the 38% who never even look for the padlock to be victims, though, since phishing, pharming and phoraging have now become common facts of life there is huge scope for the 74% who have never ever checked the certificate behind the padlock to be defrauded as a matter of course.

Will people protect themselves more?

In the light of this simple survey, we hope so. E-Commerce is not a "thing of the future", it's been a thing of the present for a great number of years now. Huge sites like eBay and Amazon.com have made sure that white haired grandmothers are a part of the E-Commerce generation. The current results are astounding. They show a cavalier disregard for even the most basic security precautions when buying online. And this is by educated users!

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