E-commerce is booming, but are consumers safe?

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One of the many  effects of the Covid-19 crisis is that it has significantly limited our ability to visit shops in person. With lockdowns across the world causing numerous stores to shut their doors for long periods of time, we have had little option but to go online for most of our shopping needs. With that in mind, it is no surprise that a new survey from ESET shows a major surge in the popularity of online shopping during the lockdowns.

The survey, carried out as part of ESET’s global financial technology (FinTech) research, explored consumers’ views toward online shopping, banking and finance. It showed that 61% of consumers globally are shopping online more often than they were before the pandemic. This increase in internet retailing’s popularity is particularly pronounced among the younger generations, as 70% among those in the 25–34 age group report shopping online more frequently​.

Given the lack of opportunities to shop in stores, these findings are not particularly shocking; however, what is more surprising is that ESET’s research indicates that increased e-commerce is here to stay, even after the pandemic is over. Of the 10,000 consumers surveyed across the UK, US, Australia, Japan and Brazil, 40% said that they also expect to be shopping online more after the pandemic​ is over than they are doing currently. This points to a fundamental change in the way we shop, and it is apparent that the pandemic’s impact on our retailing habits will likely never be reversed.

As online shopping continues to boom, it is essential that online consumers are protected from the threats that come along with internet retailing. Companies often suffer data breaches and cyberattacks, and whenever this happens there is the chance that consumers’ personal details will be exposed, opening them up to the threat of extortion and phishing attacks. It is extremely common for cybercriminals to use established retail brands as hooks for phishing, manipulating consumers’ trust in these brands in order to convince them to click malicious links and give away personal information, including usernames, passwords and card details.

Over two-thirds of the consumers that ESET surveyed felt they would be able to spot a phishing email imitating one of the online shops they use regularly. This could indicate a higher awareness of phishing emails due to their notoriety in the media, but given the huge spike that we have witnessed as a result of the pandemic—with Google registering a record 2 million phishing sites in 2020—it is also possible that many people are still underestimating the extent of threat actors’ efforts.

Just 29% of the consumers surveyed across the globe stated that they feel “very secure” when shopping online, and 16% said that they feel either “not particularly secure” or “not at all secure.”

Given that internet retailing almost always involves entering payment details, it is evident that more needs to be done globally to ensure that online consumers are safe from cyberthreats.

Progress is being made in the field of payments, for example, with services such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. These produce a unique virtual card number for each transaction, meaning card details aren’t exposed, but the results of ESET’s survey demonstrate that there is still a long way to go when it comes to instilling confidence in consumers.

Protecting consumers and their data from phishers and other malicious actors is vital, and it is ESET’s mission to do so using our cutting-edge security software technology. See more details on how ESET protects your internet browsing and shopping here