ICO warns consumers of security threats online
28 July 2010 - 09:49 by Sarah Collinson
The Information Commissioner's Office has released new guidelines, which it hopes will better educate businesses and consumers over how to operate safely online without having their personal details compromised.
Christopher Graham, who heads the ICO, said that anyone monitoring an individual consumer's internet use, could build a significant picture of that person's habits, personality and likely interests. This can allow malicious parties to target people with spam and phishing sites that are more likely to appeal to them and therefore have a higher chance of success.
Mr Graham urged consumers to check up on the privacy settings which operate on their web browser and operating systems to ensure that they can carry out safe shopping online and easily identify when websites are illegitimate and which emails are unsolicited and malicious. Privacy settings which are adequately tight will make it more difficult for cybercriminals to steal personal information when consumers access the internet.
Being asked to give over private details, such as NI number, date and place of birth or previous addresses are listed as things that should set off alarm bells when shopping online, according to the ICO. This kind of information is very valuable and in the wrong hands could be used for various illicit purposes that could be damaging on many levels.
The ICO said that many people do not pick secure passwords when creating accounts with online retailers and social networking sites and that a password that is easy to guess can be exploited not just by cybercriminals but also by colleagues and friends who know the individual well.
The new guidelines restate the fact that safe shopping online could only be achieved if the e-commerce websites being used offer secure connections and payment options. Consumers have the ability to ask online retailers to divulge any information about them which has been stored after a transaction, according to the ICO, so there are some rights which can be used.