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6 Tips To Stay Secure While Shopping Online

6 Tips To Stay Secure While Shopping Online

The holiday season is here, and that means consumers will be opening their wallets to gear up for parties, gift exchanges, and family gatherings— and an increasing amount of this spending is being done online. A survey conducted by UPS found that 2016 marked the first year where consumers reported making more purchases online than they did offline, at 51%; this is up from 48% in 2015 and 47% in 2014.

It’s easy to understand why so many of us have embraced online shopping: It’s easy, convenient, and far less stressful than cramming into a crowded mall or lining up outside a store at 3 a.m. in eight-degree weather. Unfortunately, online shopping has also opened up consumers to cyber crimes. While consumers scour online shopping sites for deals on gifts and Christmas decor, cybercriminals lurk behind the scenes, ready to harvest credit card information and personal data.

I spoke with Santosh Varughese, President and CEO of Cognetyx, about what consumers can do to stay safe from cybersecurity threats while shopping online. Here’s the insight he shared with me:

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1. Make Sure Your Devices Are Up To Date And Have Anti-Virus Protection

The first step to protecting yourself from cyber crimes is to ensure that all of your devices, whether a desktop, laptop or cellphone, are kept up to date. New cyber threats emerge daily, and OS and software updates often can address them. This includes updating your web browsers—something that’s easy to overlook.

No computer should be without anti-virus protection (not even Macs). Preferably, your anti-virus software should include additional cyber attack protection, such as firewalls and spam filtering.

2. Secure Your Home Network

Most people don’t change the default passwords their devices are shipped with. These default passwords are widely available online. Armed with this information, hackers are able to take control of peoples’ routers and other smart devices, often without their knowledge, that are then used to launch a massive cybersecurity attack.

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  • If you have not yet changed your router’s default password, do so immediately, as well as the default passwords for your smart TV and any other smart devices in your home. Hackers can use ‘unsecure these devices’ to break into your network and make their way to your computer.
  • Ensure that your wifi network is secured with WPA2 and requires a strong password for access. Change the default password your internet provider assigned you when your internet service was first connected.

3. Stick With Known Retailers And Double-Check URLs

Sticking with popular and reputable e-commerce sites, such as Amazon, Walmart, or eBay, is always a good practice. However, it is incredibly easy for hackers to set up a phoney version of a legitimate retailer’s website, so always check to make sure you are accessing the website you think you are:

  • When in doubt, use an online fake website detector.
  • Beware of buying from sites with domains that end in “.org”, “.tv”, and other extensions that are almost never used in e-commerce.
  • Look for a “green lock” indicator directly to the left of the URL. If this is missing, this means the site does not have a high level of security that has been guaranteed by a known entity such asVerisign or Symantec.
  • Make sure that the website’s address begins in “https,” which indicates that the website is secure and the information provided by you will be encrypted.
  • Double-check the site’s URL for minor variations in spelling.
  • Type in the URL by hand or use your browser bookmark; never follow links from social media posts, emails, or SMS messages.

4. Be Careful Using Mobile Shopping Apps

Mobile internet access is exploding, with mobile representing over 65% of all digital media time – and apps are being used more often than mobile websites. Mobile analytics company, App Annie, reported that consumers spent a whopping 80 million hours on mobile shopping apps in the week leading up to Black Friday this year. Shopping apps are convenient and often offer better functionality on a mobile device than a website. However, just as hackers can set up phoney websites, they can also build fake shopping apps, so follow these precautions:

  • Download shopping apps only from reputable sources, such as the Google Play Store or the Apple App store.
  • Before downloading an app, read the reviews and comments to see if anyone else noted something suspicious – or if the app has nothing but glowing reviews that sound like they were all written by the same person.
  • Don’t just click “I agree” without reading what permissions an app asks for. Read them carefully, and if you see something that bothers you or that doesn’t make sense, such as if the app wants to access your contacts, don’t allow it to do so – or discontinue the installation.

Additionally, you should always log out of online shopping (and banking) apps completely after you are done using them, and don’t let your mobile device store any of your passwords or payment information. Enable a passcode on your phone or tablet in case your device is stolen.

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5. Pay Safe

When shopping online, payment methods matter:

  • Never pay for an online purchase with a wire transfer; this is a favorite method of scammers.
  • Avoid paying with debit cards or e-checks, as this could tie up the money in your bank account during a dispute. Use a credit card with strong fraud protection or a Paypal account that is linked to one.
  • If you don’t have a credit card, use a prepaid debit card.

Additionally, you should never access your bank account, make purchases, or transmit any other sensitive data over public wifi networks, such as those found in hotels, airports, and restaurants. If you need to buy something or access your bank account while on the go, set up your mobile phone as a secure wifi hotspot and tether your computer to it. Make sure that you set up the tethering using a secure password and WPA2 security, and turn off the tethering capability when you are finished using it.

6. Consider Using a VPN

For extra protection when shopping or banking online, consider using a VPN, or a virtual private network. A VPN creates a secure, encrypted connection between your computer and the VPN provider’s server, allowing you to make purchases and access your bank account even on an unsecured or public wifi connection. This prevents anyone from intercepting your activity in a man-in-the-middle attack. Using a VPN is easy and requires no additional hardware, and any desktop, laptop, or mobile device can use a VPN. There are multiple VPN services available; some are free, while others require a paid subscription.

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Shopping apps, “deal” websites, one-click checkout—the same technological advances that have made online shopping so easy have also made it possible for hackers to compromise the networks of even the biggest retailers. But by taking proactive steps to protect yourself and your personal data, you can keep cyber criminals from spoiling your holidays.

Featured photo credit: Shutterstock via shutterstock.com

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Published on November 9, 2018

How to Improve Your Computer Skills to Get Ahead in Your Career

How to Improve Your Computer Skills to Get Ahead in Your Career

Technology has taken the business world by storm. People and businesses are progressively reliant on technology world these days. As a result, the people with impressive knowledge and experience with a computer are in demand.

Considering this growing market trend, if you too wish to bag a profitable job, this article is apt for you. Here, we will dig deeper into the business and technology world to look into what are the best computer skills one should invest in and what resources to get help from.

So, are you ready? Here we begin.

6 Most-In Demand Computer Skills This Year (and Beyond)

When talking about computer skills, following are the 6 computer skills that can fill your mailbox with endless job opportunities (besides, having an English and Hindi typing speed of 40+ WPM):-

1. Spreadsheets and Databases

Considering the treasure trove of data companies are handling these days, Spreadsheet and Database management skill tops the list. It is considered the most wanted job skill in the market, with a salary of around $53,129/yr for an entry-level position. However, the spreadsheet skill does not confine to auditing data from cells.

To get hired based on this computer skill, you need to become a Spreadsheet ninja. From storing data to organizing them, applying complex mathematics formulas, and creating complex macros, you need to be an expert at all.

In other words, you need to have an expertise at working with:

  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Access
  • Statistics
  • Data Analytics
  • Adobe Campaign
  • Quickbooks
  • XML Database management system
  • Filemaker Pro
  • MATLAB
  • Hive
  • FORTRAN
  • RDBMS (Relational Database Management System)
  • SAS

2. Social Media, Email, and Blogging

Though people are socially active, not everyone knows how to use the social media tools on the professional front. In such a scenario, having an expertise at writing engaging yet professional emails, writing blogs, and managing social media activities is a ticket to entry in reputed organizations.

Some of the skills related to social media, email and blogging that will have a leg up in the hiring process are:

  • Content Management System (CMS)
  • Google Analytics
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
  • Email Marketing
  • Web Page Design
  • WordPress
  • Digital Media
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Campaign Management Software

3. Graphic Design and Word Processing

A solid grasp of skills to present the gained information in the much readable form is another market need. When considering this computer skill category, you need to enhance your skills at:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe InDesign
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • AutoCAD
  • CorelDRAW
  • Microsoft Visual Studio
  • Maya
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Publisher
  • Operating Digital Cameras

4. Software and Hardware Design and Development

The Software and Hardware development, in simpler language, means designing, implementing, and testing the computer software/hardware applications. It is the most profitable computer skill, with a different job opening, including Software Architect, Software Analyst, Software programmer, Hardware configuration, etc.

To be capable of developing and testing the software and hardware, you need to peruse your users’ needs and build an application that hits their pain points. You need to work with different web and mobile app coding languages for gaining the attention of your audience, some of which are:

  • HTML
  • C/C++
  • Java
  • Python
  • XML
  • UI/UX
  • LINUX
  • CISC and RISC architecture
  • Embedded Processor Hardware Design
  • Memory Management
  • PCB Layout
  • SQL

5. IT Troubleshooting

Working on computers is one thing and having a knack of looking into the associated issues and resolving them in real-time is another. There are various employees and graduates who work with computer systems in their daily lives, but get confused when it comes to dealing with frozen programs and performing routine maintenance.

So, if you are familiar with the basic anatomy of computers and machines and know the tricks to perform such tasks to streamline the working process, enter the IT support arena. The prime IT troubleshooting skills one needs to work upon are:

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  • Backup management
  • Diagnostics
  • End User support
  • Client-Server management
  • Installation and configuration
  • Issue tracking system (ITS)
  • System administration
  • Tech support

6. Enterprise Systems

Many Enterprises have their own enterprise solutions like PeopleSoft for managing their data and operations.

Becoming a master at using the enterprise solutions mentioned in their ‘Requirements’ area can also lessen the barrier to get a job.

The Roadmap to Excel Your Computer Skills

Now that you know the 6 most popular computer skills in the market, the first decision, you need to take is which computer skill you want to work upon. All the skills are equally considerable for making a career ahead. So, choose one as per your interest.

Once done, look forward to the following resources for boosting your computer skills and getting a reputed, handsome job.

Depending on the computer skill you opt, here are the online courses you can turn to for elevating your career opportunities:

1. Become a Spreadsheet and Database Ninja

a. Microsoft Excel Training Online Course – Basic & Advanced

Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or expert at working with spreadsheets, this online course has something new for everyone to become excel efficient users.

Divided into 48 interesting lessons, the course empowers you to learn the technique of using mathematical, statistical, logical and text functions, sorting and filtering the data, creating Pivot Tables, building macros, finding a value with VLOOKUp, and much more.

b. Excel- Online Courses, Classes, Training, Tutorials on Lynda

This is another impressive course to unlock the power of Excel. Designed for people from all walks of life and familiarity with Excel tools. This course helps you gain in-depth knowledge from the experts about this data-analyzing tool and make the magic in spreadsheet creation and management process.

c. SQL & Database Design A-Z™: Learn MS SQL Server + PostgreSQL

Build a successful career in the data analytics world with this online course.

Revolving around the two top databases, MS SQL and PostgreSQL, this course will give you a comprehensive knowledge of the working of the databases and understanding of all the related elements, including how to create, update, organize, and safeguard the data.

2. Rule the Social Media World

a. Free Social Media Course by HubSpot

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Introduced by the top experienced inbound professors from Hubspot, here you will get a comprehensive knowledge of Social media marketing.

From understanding how to build relationships on different social media platforms to creating a perfect strategy to engage them, leveraging the benefits of social advertising, and analyzing your social media ROI, this course will bring out the best out of you.

b. Write Professional Emails in English by Coursera

This online course will be the right weapon to look into the differences and similarities between different email styles, improve your English writing skills, write effective subject lines, maintain the formality tone in emails, and more to make a powerful impact on the receivers with your email.

c. Ninja Writing: The Four Levels of Writing Mastery

Founded by Udemy, this online course will excel your skills to build a masterpiece everytime you write.

Here, you will get the guidance from the editors of the top newspapers and websites, and understand what kind of words and tone to use for leaving a spellbinding impact on the readers.

3. Launch Your Own Software or Hardware Equipment

a. Hardware and Software Courses by Coursera

From Big Data to IoT, Sensor Circuit Design, Embedded Software and Hardware Architecture, and Motor Control Circuit, this course will give you a glimpse of all the hardware devices, equipment, and programming languages to build wonders.

b. Free Software and Web Development Certifications Online by Alison

Become the software developer market demands with Alison’s Java, C#, Python, R, PHP, or MySQL database course. From backend to frontend development and software testing.

The course helps you to learn how to design, develop and test software and working in a team while contributing to the team success.

c. Free Online Software Development and MOOCs Course by Class Central

The Class Central online course will make you a master of software development. Here, you will learn the basic concepts of development like Agile, Design Patterns, and Version Control with Git, along with gaining experience of working with the top programming languages.

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4. Live and Breathe Creativity

a. Udemy: Introduction to Graphic Design

It is a top-rated program for the new learners and designers to explore the Graphic Design world.

From the history of communication to the design principles, the course will help the students to learn everything specifically and implement in the real world.

b. Canva Design School

From a beginner to advanced level, this course will provide you with an elaborated and comprehensive knowledge of graphic design. In the form of 4 modules, this course will help the interested graphic designers to try out their skills at Graphics, ranging from fonts to colors, backgrounds, images, shapes, and layouts.

c. Microsoft Word – Basic & Advanced

62 personalized lessons, premium video tutorials, and unlimited tests and quizzes – this certified course has everything that will make your entry to the business world easier.

d. Microsoft Office: Word, Excel and Access Productivity Bundle

The course will make you productive in Word, Excel, and Access through video lectures, articles, and various other supplemental resources.

Besides, it will offer you exclusive tips and tricks to enhance your skills at using Microsoft office.

5. Raise Your Reflexes to IT Troubleshooting

a. IT Troubleshooting Skill Training by Udemy

IT Troubleshooting Skill Training will upgrade your logical concepts over technical components to find and repair faults.

It will provide you with a methodological approach to learn the basics of troubleshooting, practice them via exercises and drills, and enhance your IT troubleshooting intelligence.

b. IT Help Desk Online Course on Lynda

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The Lynda’s IT troubleshooting online course will train you how to respond to the issues related to Windows 10, Office 365, JIRA software, and more, from a local as well as a remote location.

Mobile Apps and Websites to Enhance Computer Skills

The aforementioned online courses will undoubtedly train you for a successful career ahead. But, in case you want a long-term support, turn towards the following websites and mobile apps:

  • Duolingo – Duolingo app will improve your spoken and written communication skills in different languages. With the magic of gamification added to the study, the app will make learning a fun and addictive task.
  • Hemingway – Hemingway app defines the length, complexity, and common errors associated with the sentences. In this way, it helps you to write effectively and go ahead in the career.
  • Udemy – The Udemy, with its 2000+ courses, is a great platform to master new skills, advance your career and explore the newer technologies and programming languages. Enrol a course as per your budget and make a brighter future.
  • eDX – eDX is yet another commendable platform you can look forward to. The platform offers you the best of the tutorials prepared by the business professionals and technology experts, ensuring a great boost in your computer skills.
  • Excel Easy – Excel Easy, as the name depicts, will make working with Excel easier for you via their detailed tutorials and 300+ real-life examples.
  • GCF LearnFree.org – It is a one-stop platform for accelerating your future in the computer world. From graphic design to Microsoft Office, resume writing, enhancing adaptability, and much more, the top experts will guide you with everything on this platform.
  • QuarkXPress – The QuarkXPress will aid you to add soul to your design with its unparalleled collection of font style, size, and typography. The best part is that it is avails all the options in different languages, including English, Spanish, German, French, and Italian to name a few.

Bonus: Tips to Accelerate Your Approach For a Better Career Ahead

Though these resources will make you stand out from the crowd and get hired at once, you need to focus on various other things, such as:

1. Practice, Practice, Practice

It is common to forget what we learn. To ensure that you do not miss any opportunity just because you forgot, keep practising.

Make it your routine. Polish your computer skills and you will surely end up getting an offer letter from a recognized firm.

2. Work on Your Efficiency

Remembering what you learned is not enough; practice to enhance those skills to do better.

For example, if you take around 50 minutes to create a design, target for 40 minutes.

3. Look for Shortcuts

Smart work rules over hard work more often. So, look forward to learning shortcuts to do any task. This will increase your chances to crack an interview and get selected.

4. Apply for an Internship

Last but not the least, apply for an internship to see what’s trending in the market and how much you are ready for it. While doing an internship, pay attention to your weak points and work on them. This will ensure a success when you apply for your dream job.

By the late, it’s never too late to be an intern or grab whatever opportunity to learn something new! Here’s how:

How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

The Bottom Line

Seeing the current market scenario, it is evident that having computer skills is a boon for a better career ahead.

So, rather than struggling with thousands of other things and trying to crack interviews, focus on the computer skills mentioned in this article. Utilize the resources and experts’ tips shared and look forward to having a successful and prosperous future.

Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com

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