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Online Ordering - Your Order is Secure. Is it?

I recently read an article that said that a significant percentage of people were nervous about purchasing anything online. So, I thought I’d do some research on online ordering and security...

Secure Socket Layer encryptions (SSL), VeriSign, SSL Certificates, TLS, access codes, username and passwords, Personal Identity Portal (PIP), PayPal, Firewalls, Fraud Protection Centers - does anything of this mean anything? Not to mention the spyware, adware, cookies and malware that can show up on your PC after you’ve made an online purchase. I confess, I was a little confused by all this terminology.

Are you up to date in your online ordering terminology? Can you really judge if a site is "secure" as opposed to "semi-secure" or "not at all secure"?

VeriSign is the quickest way to assess the security in your online order. VeriSign is the largest internet security company. You may have seen their neat icon when you visit many websites. VeriSign says that because you see their icon, you know your transactions are secure in ordering through that site. But why?

VeriSign provides companies with an SSL certificate. That SSL certificate is used to authenticate the source computer. This insures that your computer is really communicating with the right company and that your information is protected against "eavesdropping" that can be done by other computers who shouldn’t be party to your sensitive information. The SSL certificate is like a passport for your computer. It’s unique and readily identifiable by other computers in the secure transmission. Neat, huh?

Sounds secure doesn’t it! But it really secure? Your computer is communicating with another computer that has been through all these certifications and is "verified." Very official sounding - almost like dealing with a government agent, right? If someone in a fancy suit showed up on your doorstep with "papers" and "certificates" - you would listen, right?

How about TLS? TLS stands for Transport Layer Security and is the newest development in security certificates. TLS provides endpoint authentication and communications confidentiality over the Internet using cryptography (thanks Wikipedia - I could not have said it better myself). So...if VeriSign is only providing SSL and there’s a new and better TLS - is anyone providing that? Yes, they are...VeriSign does use TLS but we are all very used to seeing SSL. To the layperson, it’s the same thing. VeriSign’s white paper here explains it (and the entire process) very well:

Great - we are secure! But what if we don’t see the VeriSign icon? Are you we secure in entering our credit card information into that website? We might very well be! You can quickly tell if you are entering a secure site by looking at your browser bar. As you complete your order and are asked to provide payment and shipping information, you will notice that no matter what browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox etc) you are using, your location bar will read "https://", indicating that you’ve just entered a secure area. The change is very subtle - your browser bar wills most likely read http:// prior to entering the secure site and then you will see the addition of the "s". Internet Explorer goes one more step and provides a gold padlock icon in the bottom right hand corner of your screen.

If in doubt at all, give the company a call to find out what security features they have in place to ensure that your information stays private. Consumer Reports also has an entire site dedicated to online security:

BINGO UPDATE: Thank you all for participating in our BINGO game. We do have a winner, so the game is officially over. But you can still win. Keep your BINGO card and use it when you next purchase or rent an Enterprise Media produced program. You’ll save $50!

Posted under What’s New, Miscellaneous Thoughts by Stewart on Apr 08, 2009 | Comments: 0 | Post a comment»

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