Shopping online – tips and advice

When shopping online, there are loads of things to look out for, and loads of ways to get a better deal. In this article I hope to share some of the experience I have got from shopping online, and some of my tech knowledge in order to help you get a better deal – what you want, at a reasonable price.

The first thing to say is that what you are shopping for, is crucial to how to go about buying it.

Virtual Goods

If you are buying an online or ‘virtual’ good/service, then the key thing to check is that you are buying from a reputable firm. Checking the firm is reputable and reliable is key for all online shopping, but especially so if you are buying something virtual – e.g. a website, anti-virus software, access to a game, music etc.

There are a few ways you can go about checking if online firms are reputable. The first is to see if the firm exists in reality, do they have shops in the real world, or are they totally online? Firms with physical property are less likely to be fraudulent, as they are easy to find and locate. Totally online firms can be just as reputable, look at the likes of Play.com and Amazon.

Play.com's LogoThe second way to get an idea of whether a firm is reputable or not is to check their stats. Does the site have a good Alexa rank – top 500,000? If not, people may not be visiting the site for a reason: it has just been set up, and after a few quick cons will be gone. You can check the history of the site using the Way Back Machine for more info on its past.

The third way is a much less reliable way, but can be useful to back up your decision. Try looking at the websites PageRank. If they have say a PageRank 3+ homepage, they are more likely to be legitimate than a site with all PageRank 0’s. People link to shop websites when they buy things and then review them, so shops should acquire PageRank. If they have no PageRank, they may still be legitimate, but check, as that may mean they have not been trading for long, therefore have just set up to scam, and will be shut down soon.

Finally are they a big name. Say you are buying anti-virus direct from the supplier. Most people have heard of the likes of Kaspersky, Sophos and Norton, but if the company is called something like ‘SpywareBeGoneSolutions’ then they are a lot less likely to sell you a good product, if any product at all.

Kaspersky's LogoFinally, when checking that the firm you are going to buy from is going to give you the product(s) you want, watch the news, or research them on news sites! Is the firm about to go bust or being run by administrators? If so, buying from them may lead to you loosing your money!

Services

If you are buying a service, such as a holiday, insurance or a meal at a restaurant, then there are loads of really useful sites that can help you, by giving you an incite into what others thought of that service.

Say for example you are buying a holiday, you can use websites like TripAdvisor.com to see if the place you are looking at staying at has positive reviews. If not, you can maybe choose somewhere else. Be careful though, as sometimes these sites can be misleading, as Jonny recently wrote about.

There are other websites too like MoneySavingExpert.com and Yelp, which can offer similar services for other things like insurance, banking, restaurants, shopping etc. MoneySavingExpert.com is especially worth a look, as aside from reviews, they can give really good advice, to help you save money when buying all sorts of things.

Products

The key to ensuring you get value for money and what you want when buying products online is to make sure you read what other people think about it. Reviews are really useful, and can help you determine which product is right for you.

Don’t be afraid to venture out of the companies website itself, and look for more reviews elsewhere online. Some firms will only publish the positive reviews they receive on their own site, in order to try to persuade more people to buy that product, from them.

A really important bit of advice is not to discount the high street, it can still be a very good place to buy things. Often things are cheaper online, however you can usually see and sometimes try products when in a shop, whereas online, all you have is pictures and possibly video.

Once you know the product is for you, make sure that you shop around. Find the best deal using price comparison sites like MoneySupermarket.com and PriceRunner.co.uk.

Once you have your product and the shop, don’t forget to go to coupon sites to see if you can get an even better deal. Sites like MyVoucherCodes usually have some great discount offers, you just need to look.

To conclude

In summary, when shopping online, make sure that you are buying from someone reputable. Make sure the product or service is what you want. Check out other peoples reviews. Look for the best deal, and then finally don’t forget to check if there are any vouchers that could further slash the cost.

Hopefully these tips have been useful, good luck shopping online!

Does Security Have to be Technical?

I had been a software engineer for at least 3 years specializing in digital security. A month ago, I attended a small workshop which talked about IT Security for corporate and the speaker said this somewhere in the middle of the workshop:

“Security is a process. It does not have to be really technical and the most important part is the process.”

I stunned for a while and suddenly my mind wondered away from the workshop deeply thinking, what is the speaker trying to deliver? I started this serious thinking simply because it is not said by some non-technical or sales person. Instead, the person speaking in front of me is a Certified Ethical Hacker.

A padlock key on a keyboardAt the end of the workshop, I begin to understand what he is trying to deliver. After 3 years of writing programs for the benefit of security, I turned out saying that security is a process. Why would I say that? Look around us. All the tech that you need to protect yourself from cyber crime is there. Anti-virus, firewall, anti keylogger, parental control, password manager and many more are all available in the software market. There is no reason for us to say in terms of technology, we are not good enough in security.

What makes so many of us a victim of computer or internet threat is the lack of proper process in computer and internet security. Security is not a short process where you only apply if you need it. For instance, you don’t only apply security when you had just downloaded a file from an unknown site which required a security scan.

Security is an end to end process. This means that the moment your computer boots up, security should be applied until the time your computer shuts down. People usually failed to stay secure simply because they don’t apply security from the very start. Agree?

So what’s your view? Do you still think that security has to be something technical?

Are Antivirus and Firewall Sufficient for Good Security?

Whenever people talk about computer and internet security, they talk about malware which consists of virus, trojan, worms, spyware and many more. When they come to talk about the solution for those threats, the solution is to get an antivirus and firewall to do the work.

The question now is, are they sufficient for a good computer and internet security? I would say ‘No’. It is very irresponsible to put the blame into that awesome software when you become a victim of malware infection. I believe that software like antivirus and firewall are there to help you in achieving good security, but not creating some sort of plasma shield to you.

The reasons why you have a poor security

As I said, you can’t blame the software for being too poor as the reason that you to get infected. Part of the reason why you are infected can be several below.

You are too careless when handling incoming links from email

Incoming links from emails especially from an unknown sender are usually malicious. They don’t lead to valuable site but either phishing site or malicious site. If you happen to land on a malicious site, your computer will most probably infected with virus, trojan, or worm the next minute.

If you don’t update and patch your operating system, the wounded area is the target for hackers

Sad to say, there is no such thing such as perfect software. Software is always 95% complete where 5% is the section for bugs and vulnerabilities to exist. It is the matter of time whether those vulnerabilities are found.

If the creator happened to find those vulnerabilities before the bad guys, they will still able to patch the wounded area. So if you don’t update and apply the patch, you will the one targeted by hackers to exploit your vulnerabilities.

You are the owner of your computer, not the administrator

Many of us think that being the owner of the computer means being the administrator as well. But do you know that Microsoft did not design it this way for us? There is an option to create a Standard User and there is User Account Control (UAC) so that we will use our computer in the way that we don’t have full privileges to do everything, same goes to the hacker.

A set of keysBy having a strict UAC, you will realize that every single time you run an application that might affect your System files, you will be asked for permission. The benefit here is, if a hacker tries to run an application to harm your system files, I bet you will know it as well when your UAC pops up.

My verdict to poor security

Having a bad security does not mean your antivirus is not efficient enough or your firewall is not solid enough. At times, it is the user who lacks of experience in handling computer threats. As a result, it is important to always stay alert whenever you are browsing the internet.

If you want to learn more about security, you can grab my copy of eBook for free on how to Build Your Own Security.