Smartphone Shopping 101: Are Mobile Devices Less Secure than PCs?

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According to a recent survey, nearly half of all consumers believe that their smartphones and other mobile devices are less secure than their laptop or desktop computers.  In the same survey, only 36% of respondents said they trust online retail sites to keep their personal data safe. Still, holiday shopping from mobile phones increased by 81% in 2012, and experts predict consumers to make nearly $87 billion in mobile purchases by 2016.

The upward trend in mobile shopping is clear, but are consumer worries justified?

Stick to Known Retailers

Most big online retailers take security and information protection seriously, so whether you’re on a phone, tablet, or laptop, you’re much better off starting your search at the site of a well-known retailer like Target, WalMart, or Still, even large retailers aren’t immune from security breaches (Zappos reset the passwords for over 24 million customer accounts after a breach in January). To help yourself avoid risky sites, download a browser plug-in like McAfee SiteAdvisor, which gives safety advice before you visit a risky site–even on Android mobile devices.

Buy from Home

Only make online purchases using your own desktop, phone, or laptop. Public computers, like those in libraries, shouldn’t be used for secure transactions. In addition, never conduct a transaction over a public Wi-Fi network–at a coffee shop, mall, hotel, or airport for example. These connections are often insecure, and sensitive information like credit card numbers could be intercepted.

Ensure Connections are Safe

If you absolutely need to make a purchase while traveling, make sure you are connecting to websites using encrypted HTTPS connections. HTTPS stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure, which means that the communication between a website and your computer is encrypted to increase security. (Learn more about encryption here.)

Before you make a purchase, always check your web address bar to see whether or not your website is using HTTPS. If the URL has changed or does not include https:// in the address bar, end your session and buy from another retailer.

Protect ALL Your Devices – Not Just Your PC

Despite their security concerns, at least 53% of consumers reported that they don’t regularly update security settings on their mobile devices. This is one of the key reasons that consumers believe their smartphones and tablets are less secure than desktop computers – many simply don’t keep their smartphone security up-to-date.

If you plan to make purchases on any mobile device, make sure you take proper security precautions by downloading a cross-device solution like McAfee All Access that can protect your smartphones, tablets, Macs, laptops, and desktop PCs. In addition, using your smartphone’s built-in screen lock setting is one of the easiest ways to keep your personal data more secure, and you shouldn’t hesitate to change your PIN, swipe pattern, or password on a regular basis.  You should also make a point of downloading any software updates from the phone’s manufacturer on a regular basis, as these updates often include fixes to any weak points in the software’s security.

Ultimately, online shopping security should not depend on the device we shop on. The technology is available to make buying on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or PC equally secure; it’s just a matter of putting in that extra effort to download security software and stay aware of your surroundings on the web.

For more on this topic and other emerging threats, be sure to follow our team on Facebook and on Twitter with @McAfeeConsumer.

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