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Online shopping has proven to be a quick and convenient way to buy virtually anything. And it’s been a lifesaver during the pandemic when we couldn’t go out to pick up groceries, food, and other essential items. But like any website, retail sites can be vulnerable to data breaches and security flaws. Do concerns about security issues deter people from shopping online? Not according to a report from software security provider NTT Application Security.

For its new report titled “The State of Secure Online Holiday Shopping,” NTT surveyed 1,057 US consumers 18 and older who buy personal items online. Conducted in early October, the overall survey found that a majority of consumers understand the security risks associated with online shopping, especially during the holidays. But in the long run, buyers value the benefits of online shopping over any security concerns.

Among the respondents, 35% said they’d continue shopping with a retailer that was hit by a security breach. Only 25% said they’d take their business somewhere else. Further, only 46% revealed that they’d stop shopping with an online retailer if their own credit card details or personal data were leaked in a breach.

SEE: From data to devices: Strengthen your cyber defenses with these security policies (TechRepublic Premium)

Many consumers have experienced the consequences of a data breach directly. Some 26% of those surveyed said they suffered credit card or identity theft as a result of shopping online; 10% said that these incidents occurred during the pandemic.

Despite the constant news of data breaches and the direct impact of a security breach, the consumers polled still seem to feel safe shopping in the virtual world. A full 58% said they believe their personal data is protected online. Some 57% feel secure storing their credit card information in a retail mobile app and 55% feel safe storing their credit card information in a digital wallet or similar platform.

Many people appear to feel safe because they trust their credit card company to act in the event of a problem. Among the respondents, 69% said they rely on their credit card provider to protect them from fraudulent transactions.

Whatever their feelings about online shopping, most of the consumers polled appear to be savvy on how to protect themselves. A full 63% said they don’t shop online when connected to a public Wi-Fi network, 76% said they make sure that a shopping site has a secure HTTPS connection, 73% rarely or never click on links embedded in an email or social media promotion, and 51% said they use two-factor authentication.

SEE: COVID-19’s effect on e-commerce: How it has reshaped online shopping (TechRepublic)

Despite the confidence among the consumers surveyed, retail sites can be vulnerable to breaches and other security issues, especially during the holidays when shopping is heavy.

“As we head into the holiday season, consumers need to be aware of how to reduce their risk of being susceptible to stolen personal information or scam websites that phish for online credentials and payment information,” said NTT application security CEO Craig Hinkley. “It seems that these days every retailer has an app that consumers can use for shopping. Hackers are increasingly using pilfered credit card numbers and phishing attacks to prey on overwhelmed consumers and banks during the pandemic.”

To protect yourself and your personal information when shopping online, Hinkley offers the following tips:

  • Use strong and unique passwords. Make sure each password is not only strong but never used more than once. Your best bet is a password manager that can create strong and unique passwords to simplify the process.
  • Use two-factor authentication. Take advantage of any two-factor authentication provided by an online retailer. Using this method may add a couple of extra minutes to your sign-in process, but it does reduce the risk of someone signing in with your account to access your personal data.
  • Don’t give personal information to retailers. With a lot of seasonal workers employed by retailers during the holidays, a healthy amount of wariness can better protect your personal information.
  • Don’t shop via public Wi-Fi. Beyond the inherent risks of an unsecure public Wi-Fi network, hackers can create phony networks designed to access your information.
  • Be wary of links and attachments. Watch out for hyperlinks and suspicious attachments that you see in an email or text message. If in doubt, just delete the message.

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