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Are E-commerce Transactions Secure?
By: Amy Nutt, Fri Sep 18th, 2009
Shopping online is one retail activity that seems to be thriving, even during tough economic times. More people are now using the internet for their shopping needs. According to a recent study released by McAfee, Inc., the world's biggest security company, and carried out by Harris Interactive, "72% of consumers said the economy has not changed the way they shop online." Instead, the study revealed that "fears about online security and personal information are the biggest drivers behind terminated online sales." The study also found that, "nearly half of consumers have terminated an order or abandoned their shopping cart due to security concerns."
Legitimate online retailers are now embracing the best and most effective security measures to protect their customers. In recent years, there have been a number of technological advancements that have made online shopping more safe and secure.
In order to protect credit card and other financial information from being stolen, e-commerce sites now use secure transaction methods when customers order and pay for products from their site. After placing an online order from a secure verified site, the customer clicks on the link to the page containing the order form. The customer will then be taken to a secure section (i.e... https://) of the merchant's web site.
Once completing the payment form, they will click the 'submit button' and send the order by way of https:// to the secure e-commerce server. A secure site will have a padlock in the browser window or SSL trust marks. It is important to note that the recent study released by McAfee, Inc found that about "60 % of consumers feel safer when shopping on sites with a trustmark and 47 % of consumers look for trustmarks to feel safe when shopping on a lesser known site." As well, the survey found that "one-third of consumers would rather buy from a smaller website with a trustmark than from a larger, more well-known online retail site."
Online merchants use the Secure Sockets Layer protocol, which encrypts sensitive information and securely transfers the data over the SSL connection. The transaction takes place over a secure encrypted connection such as https://. When a web browser points to a secured domain, a Secure Sockets Layer verifies both the server and the client. An SSL Certificate enables encryption during online transactions. An encryption method is established with a unique session key so that secure transmission can commence. The SSL Certificate contains distinctive and verified information about the certificate owner. A Certificate Authority authenticates the certificate owner's identity when it is issued. The SSL Certificate sets a private communication connection allowing encryption of the data during transmission. Encryption will scramble the data creating secure privacy. Each SSL Certificate consists of a public key and a private key. The public key is used to encrypt information and the private key is used to decrypt it. If an unauthorized user is able to capture the data, he or she will not be able to decrypt the transaction.
Shopping on the Internet has quickly become a major part of the U.S. economy. Because of the fears about financial and personal information theft, online merchants have stepped up to the plate and taken steps to alleviate consumer fears by implementing the most advanced security measures designed to keep online criminals from accessing their accounts.