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In the present day, technology has transformed how human beings live and the processes they use to fulfill day-today activities. Buying and selling has been among man's key activities and over the years, these activities have become more sophisticated to enhance the ease and comfort of the experience. The shopping experience, buying and selling has further transformed over the past decade with the inception of the internet. Online shopping, and e-commerce in general, have gained popularity and provide more convenient and less stressful options transacting online. Consumers can now enjoy accessing products from distant stores according to their preference, a factor that gives consumers the ability to choose without considering distance and long queues. While online shopping promises to be a better option to the consumer, the channel is susceptible to threats, referring to elements that have the potential to inflict serious harm on a user's privacy leading to data breaches and a compromise of data security. As a consequence consumers are uncertain on whether to trust online shopping. This paper includes information on the threats of online shopping and highlights consumer perceptions, including negative consumer perceptions. The paper provides awareness on cyber security issues, including ways online shoppers and merchants can protect themselves from data breaches and attacks through methods such as phishing and adware.
Security Issues For Online Shoppers
Dr. Abdulah Aseri
Abstract: In the present day, technology has transformed how human beings live and the processes they use to fulfill day-to-day activities. Buying and
selling has been among man’s key activities and over the years, these activities have become more sophisticated to enhance the ease and comfort of
the experience. The shopping experience, buying and selling has further transformed over the past decade with the inception of the internet. Online
shopping, and e-commerce in general, have gained popularity and provide more convenient and less stressful options transacting online. Consumers
can now enjoy accessing products from distant stores according to their preference, a factor that gives consumers the ability to choose without
considering distance and long queues. While online shopping promises to be a better option to the consumer, the channel is susceptible to threats,
referring to elements that have the potential to inflict serious harm on a user’s privacy leading to data breaches and a compromise of data security. As a
consequence consumers are uncertain on whether to trust online shopping. This paper includes information on the threats of online shopping and
highlights consumer perceptions, including negative consumer perceptions. The paper provides awareness on cyber security issues, including ways
online shoppers and merchants can protect themselves from data breaches and attacks through methods such as phishing and adware.
Index Terms: consumer perceptions, cyber security, e-commerce, online shopping, online merchants, shopping experience, threats.
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he internet has advanced markedly over this past decade,
especially as an agent of communication, marketing and
entertainment. This exponential growth of the internet has
however, led to new problems brought about by the collection
of consumer information by online merchants, and
dissemination to third parties. The consumer data
accumulated online exposes important details to unauthorized
personnel, which makes the consumer susceptible to threats
which include but are not limited to phishing, internet fraud,
online scams and malicious URL’s. For instance, consumers
who prefer using credit cards transmit their credit card
numbers via secure channels. Considering that credit cards
are one of the most used payment criteria online, any
compromise with a user’s credit card number may prove fatal
to the security of this information. Apart from the threat of
exposing consumer credit card numbers, consumers also
leave important information as they look for items from
different online merchants. This research paper includes
various ways e-commerce set ups can be compromised and
the security measures that should be put in place to enhance
the safety of online customer data. E-commerce is further
burdened by the belief held by many consumers, of being too
risky, with some considering the threats such as interception of
important information by a third party. The paper also
highlights various consumer perceptions of online shopping,
including consumer perceived risks and how they inhibit the
success of ecommerce as well as offering recommendations
on ways negative consumer perception, with respect to e-
commerce, can be addressed.
The practice of purchasing products online has become
popular because of the convenience that comes with the
ability to have products on an online platform that can be
accessed regardless of the location. Online shoppers can
avoid queues and select the cheapest deals without having to
walk around a city. E-commerce merchants, who sell their
products exclusively over online platforms, and online sellers
who buy commodities and sell them online for a profit, have
reaped from the soaring heights of the internet’s popularity in
the 21st century [1]. These online merchants and sellers
include provisions for various online payment solutions within
their platform that encompass the features making online
shopping and e-commerce in general, an attractive prospect.
While online shopping seems convenient, it is susceptible to
data breaches through methods such as hacking. Consumers
therefore are reluctant when trusting online platforms since
online channels are a threat to their privacy.
The internet’s application in buying and selling has elicited
various perceptions from people. Some find it being a better
option compared to manual shopping because it is more
convenient. Brick and mortar institutions are limited in terms of
accessing the whole breadth of a country and consequently,
having an impact. On the contrary, online shopping and
merchants present their product portfolio to different people
across the globe thus availing commodities that would
otherwise prove difficult to access [2]. Online shopping
therefore, thrives following the perception that they enable
access, efficient search, evaluation, transaction and finally
possession of commodities. Understanding consumer
perceptions helps online businesses tailor their activities and
improve returns from e-commerce sales. Online shopping is
also subject to negative perceptions that prevent it from being
fully embraced by internet users. The nature of online
shopping makes it susceptible to third party interceptions, and
as a consequence, it is considered as one of the riskiest
buying and selling avenues. Most users do not trust the
measures taken by ecommerce merchants to safeguard
important information such as credit card numbers. Others
also perceive online shopping as expensive and prone to
delays when delivering the ordered products. Consumers also
prove to be reluctant to purchase a product they cannot verify
personally. Some perceptions concern with online shopping
are positive while others negatively impact the acceptance of
online shopping in the society.
Dr. Abdulah Aseri is currently an Assistant Professor Department of
Management Information System, College of Business
Administration, Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, Saudi
Arabia, PH-133332101. Email:
The perceptions of consumers towards online shopping are at
times affected by their lack of understanding of cyber-attacks.
These perceptions are influenced by:
4.1 Personality
Human characteristics vary and some people can lean more
toward newer technologies while others prefer completing
tasks traditionally [2]. Risk perceptions on online shopping also
vary and this is especially affected by an individual’s inherent
ability to accept change and the accompanying risks.
4.2 One’s inclusive social systems
Where the actual levels of risk remain ambiguous or unfamiliar
to online shoppers, they rely on recommendations from others
within the social system. These include friends, neighbors and
relatives. Awan et. al. [2] supports this deduction as they claim
that information on a new product or innovation is
communicated through some channels over a period of time,
within members of a social group. These channels include the
press, newspapers and other mass media who dispense
information such as data breaches at a quicker rate. The
media’s interpretation of an experience affects the
experience’s perception among members of the society.
4.3 Knowledge
Consumers fear that important information such as the credit
card number can be accessed by unauthorized individuals
when shopping online. However, it is evident, as presented by
Schivinski and Dabrowski [3] that cases which have been
reported, arose due to weaknesses in the design of the
merchant’s website. Furthermore, while reports by Maurer et.
al. [4] imply that e-commerce is the riskiest buying channel,
facts show that online transaction fraud has a lower
prevalence when compared to fraud rates experienced in
offline transactions [2].
4.4 Experience
The Consumer’s experience also affects his or her perception.
Customers who have tried purchasing items online are likely to
repeat the same if the method proves trustworthy. The
possibility of purchasing an item online is directly proportional
to one’s experience.
4.5 Shopping Context
Traditional shopping setups function in such a way that a
consumer can see whoever they are dealing with. As a
consequence, the consumer is confident that financial items
such as money or a credit card number are delivered to the
intended merchants. Online shopping does not have the
advantage of face to face interactions which is the basis of
trust in various partnerships [5]. This explains the perceptions
held by consumers with respect to the levels of risk inherent in
online shopping. The next sections highlight the actual risks
online shoppers are susceptible to.
Online shopping has eased the consumers experience to the
point that you can buy a product from the comfort of your
home. The prices presented are competitive and products are
mostly genuine, capped with offers during festive seasons.
The dangers of engaging in online shopping remain unknown
to most users leading to false perceptions of online shopping.
5.1 Phishing
One of the most prevalent security breaches affecting online
shoppers are executed through phishing. As the name
purports, a user is lured into giving his or her important
passwords and credit card details using a click bait. Phishing
is a situation where fraudsters transmit emails which they
falsely claim to be affiliated to highly reputed firms so as to
extract an individual’s personal data. Phishing uses disguised
emails as its main weapon, the goal being to trick a user with
an urgent message such as a request from the user’s bank
requiring the user to download a form [6]. The malpractice can
be categorized according to the user’s intentions. It can be
done to extract important information from the client, by
tailoring a message to resemble a bank. Phishing can also lure
a user into downloading malware, the files usually come with
.zip extensions or Office documents embedded with malicious
code, ransom ware is one of the most common malicious
codes and has been detected in 93% of phishing emails [6].
5.2 Fake Online Stores
The internet harbors numerous online stores that convince
people to purchase fake products, once purchased, these
products are never availed to those who ordered them. These
stores mimic the appearance of legitimate stores and in
extreme situations, steal their identity.
5.3 Theft of data
Data theft has become an issue as online merchants
accumulate important client information on their databases.
System administrators and other workers who are authorized
to access servers can access data without the owner’s
knowledge. A survey conducted by the British Retail
Consortium (BRC) saw 62% of the respondents acknowledge
data theft by system administrators and other workers as a
threat [7].
5.4 Adware
A user can be bombarded with advertisements on online
shopping platforms or social sites. These advertisements are
at times illegitimate and they usually promise attractive
rewards such as an iPhone 7. When the user clicks on an Ad,
he or she is solicited for his or her personal details that can
eventually be stolen by an unauthorized third party.
5.5 Identity Theft
Identity theft is fulfilled by paying attention to the activities
undertaken by an online shopper. The crime perpetrators
carefully monitor the activities of customers as they
communicate with merchants via online stores so that they can
be in a good position to masquerade as the merchants or
online shoppers.
Most people like online shopping but the difficulty comes when
safeguarding one’s information. Online shopping is new to
most consumers and trusting a new technology can take time,
especially where money is involved. As more people embrace
online shopping, malicious hackers also pervade the internet
scouring for sensitive data. Therefore, users as well as online
merchants should protect their details when purchasing items
online. One way of ensuring your information is protected
when shopping online is cross checking of the site your using
is secure. This can be done by looking at the sites address, if
the site address includes a HTTPS and not HTTP, then the site
has encrypted your communication with a merchant thus
preventing third parties from intercepting important details.
These also prevents a user from opening fake online shopping
stores than can infect a user when opened. These malicious
online shopping stores extract important information after
check out processes have been completed. Another
precaution online shopper can consider when shopping online
is the use of credit cards instead of debit cards. Credit cards
have in-built defenses that are safer when compared to debit
cards. Credits are connected to the bank’s cash while debit
cards are connected to one’s bank account [8]. As a
consequence, one’s bank account is at a greater risk of being
hacked when using a debit card. Moreover, encryption and
validation techniques have ensured made the credit card
comparatively secure compared to the debit card. Using one
password for different online purchasing sites is risky. Online
purchases are usually completed on different sites, therefore,
using the same passwords for different sites makes one
susceptible to fraud. Users should apply different passwords
on different sites as they are the gateway to one’s accounts.
Unauthorized people can access passwords from insecure
sites and use these passwords to inflict financial harm and
invade the private lives of online shoppers. Phishing is the
most effective tactic used by hackers to extract sensitive
details from users. To prevent cyber-attacks through phishing,
an online shopper should not open emails from ambiguous
sources. In addition, when the bank needs some information
from an online shopper, it would be prudent to call the bank
before going forward. Online shoppers should also consider
the security of the Wi-Fi connections they use to access the
internet and online shopping sites. It is recommended that one
should use his or her own Wi-Fi connection [9]. In case one
has no other option other than using a Public Wi-Fi, then the
individual should encrypt communication to prevent
eavesdropping of financial data by fraudulent third parties.
A cyber security professional can address malicious attacks on
the privacy and safety of data availed by online shoppers or
merchants. Cyber security experts are well positioned to
safeguard e-commerce from malicious threats that
compromise the integrity of information. In most instances, the
end user doesn’t have the knowledge necessary to keep his or
her information safe when online. A cybercriminal targets end-
user as they interact on their phones and home networks. An
action as simple as clicking on a pop-up feature can expose a
home network, or a phone to cyber-attacks primarily due to
lack of awareness.
Online shopping sites that are recognized by the Better
Business Bureau (BBB) are secure platforms (Miraz et al.,
2017). When a user logs on to an online shopping site and
encounters pop-up ads, it indicates an insecure site. Pop-ups
have malware, adware and other malicious software. Websites
that send emails without an online consumer’s request could
most probably propagate cyber-attacks. A consumer is only
entitled to receive emails from known senders who the
consumer expects messages from. Secure online shopping
platforms can also be discerned by the presence or absence
of contact information. If the online shopping platform includes
an address, a telephone number, an email address and some
key names affiliated to the site, then the site is more likely a
trustworthy one. Companies that don’t accept credit cards are
not to be trusted since credit cards are well protected against
frauds while debit cards are not. Online shopping sites that
insist on the use of debit cards could most likely be having
ulterior motives.
Credit cards are widely used by online consumers and
therefore, improving the confidentiality of credit card
transactions will address some negative consumer
perceptions with regard to online shopping. When transmitting
information between an online shopper and an online
merchant, the ecommerce server is usually protected by
various protocols including the secure socket la (SSL) and the
SSL-based Transport Layer Security (TLS) which is affiliated
to IETF. A unique protocol named Secure Electronic
Transmission (SET), is, as emphasized by Doloto and Chen-
Burger [10], a fully integrated protocol which can secure a
transaction from its initiation to completion. SET and TLS
lower the risks of credit card fraud through applying effective
cryptographic techniques unknown to the online shopper or
end user. Consumer’s perceptions however, are not informed
by the stringent security measures made possible by TLS and
SET protocols, and online shopping remains to be a risky
exploit. A secure server which includes a firewall and precise
information security policies set up by the network’s
administrators is relatively safe for online shopping. When the
servers are configured poorly and there exists inadequate
security policies, the confidentiality of stored consumer
financial information such as the important details held by the
credit at card are at risk. Connections to port 80, which are
used by webservers, are usually open, hence rendering
customer information insecure [11]. When firewalls are used
for such connections, they analyze and record essential
communication parameters on traffic within the network,
including the incoming internet traffic. Firewalls hold details
about the destination port and the destination I.P addresses
attached to incoming traffic. Firewalls, should however, be well
configured to prevent an instance where customer information
stored in the merchant’s server has been compromised [12].
Firewalls are limited since they only prevent attacks on the
network through securing port 80. However, threats can come
from other points of the network that are not protected by the
firewallA variety of operating systems run e-commerce
servers, these include Linux, Solaris, and Windows. These
operating systems have differing security terms and levels of
vulnerability. Linux and Windows 2000 differ in terms of
features and security measures. In poorly configured operating
systems, information can be vulnerable to malicious attacks
[13]. The complexity of modern operating systems adds on the
difficulty of avoiding loopholes within the OS design.
Configuration should therefore be administered through
running the latest security patches. With multiple operating
systems (OS) in the market, it has proven difficult to establish
a common standard dictating the preferred e-commerce server
OS. This makes it difficult to avoid problems generated by
accidents made when developing an OS. Web server
applications are a necessary consideration when running a
merchant server. Installing applications such as Apache, Cold
Fusion and Netscape enterprise servers can protect an online
shopper to some extent. However, these merchant servers are
susceptible to attacks meant to compromise data stored in
them. In 2010 for instance, Microsoft SSL ecommerce
platforms contained encrypted transactions with trapdoors that
enabled the cybercriminal to monitor systems [4]. As a
consumer transmits payment information on forms provided by
e-commerce websites, the Common gateway interface (CGI)
acts as the interface between the user or online shopper and
the server. However, while CGI offers some level of protection,
it remains vulnerable since it is difficult to construct fully secure
CGI scripts. Miraz et. al. [8] stipulate that the CGI can be a key
source of security issues since they provide channels a third
party can use to learn the system.
When consumers purchase commodities online, they are
unsure of the process and tend to attach online shopping to a
number of risks. One of the consumer perceptions affecting
online shopping is the failure of a product to meet the
consumer’s specifications. Despite the fact that such instances
arise in brick and mortar settings, it seems more discomforting
when it happens in online shopping. Online shoppers are
skeptical because of not being in a position to assess the
product’s performance before making the purchase. The lack
of a reliable method to test on the quality of products seen
online remains to be a hindrance to online shopping. It is
therefore prudent for online merchants to include online
reviews of their products to educate online shoppers on the
specifications of the product, including its advantages and
disadvantages. 61% of the consumers read online reviews
prior to purchasing a commodity [8]. The financial risk
involved when engaging in online shopping has an influence
on the level of acceptance of online shopping. Consumers are
usually skeptical on the value of the product when compared
to its price and revealing card information. Such instances of
financial risk can be addressed by identifying a target market
for your products while considering the income levels, which
should be proportional to the price of the product.
Furthermore, the site should contain multiple paying options
since it is obvious that a consumer can buy what he or she is
not in a position to pay for. Some consumers fear that
shopping online can lead to time wastage. When an online
consumer encounters a faulty product, or one that does not
meet his or her expectations. The consumer can find the
refunding process as time-wasting, even if there includes a
money-back guarantee. An online merchant can avoid this
short by applying the most convenient online delivery methods
[14]. High prices affect the shopper’s confidence negatively,
and he or she will likely solicit for details from friends and
product experts. An online merchant should practice guiding
selling where the establishment provides as much information
as possible, and personalized recommendations, especially
when dealing with high end products. By providing sufficient
information, an online consumer won’t necessarily seek
additional information on the product or online platform [15].
The information provided should however, be right information
as customers will be attention on true and relevant details
informed by an expert. Sellers use techniques such as online
quiz to understand consumer preferences and increase their
confidence by giving them sufficient information on the
products preferred by the client.
Guiding selling addresses the functional risk through ensuring
that customers are purchasing the right products for the
intended purpose. The techniques also lower the financial
risks through illuminating the benefits of a product and
ensuring the customer does not pay for a feature that won’t be
of use to them [9]. The time loss risk is nullified by giving fast
and professional advice when needed and ensuring that
customers purchase the right products. This will prevent
instances whereby the product is faulty and needs to be
returned making the transaction convenient to both the online
shopper and online merchant.
Online shopping is a new technique revolutionizing the
shopping experience. Conventional shopping methods come
with inconveniences such as long queues and a small range of
items to choose from. Online shopping platforms are
advantageous since they eradicate the need to physically
appear at a physical shopping promise when one needs a
certain commodity. Online shopping further enables more
informed selection of the preferred models or products without
indulging in frequent searches across stores. While online
shopping proves convenient and less stressful, it is subject to
malicious attacks from malware and other parties that
compromise data safety, security and integrity. These attacks
include but are not limited to phishing and adware techniques.
As a consequence, there have been numerous data breaches
which have also affected reputable firms such as Amazon and
Google. Individuals remain hesitant when making the choice of
whether or not, they can adopt online shopping because of
rampant cases of fraud. Most fears are justified since online
shopping involves financial transactions while some fears
arise due to lack of proper information. By providing sufficient
knowledge on cyber security threats that can impact clients,
the security of online shopping via ecommerce sites will be
enhanced and the accompanying awareness to end users will
get rid of negative perceptions.
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Supplementary resource (1)

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Internationally, there is increasing recognition of the importance of multilevel policies and actions that address healthy and environmentally friendly food behaviours. However it is not yet clear which actions are most suitable to support consumers to adopt both behaviours concurrently. To this end, we undertook a qualitative study to assess consumer perceptions, experiences and attitudes towards healthy and environmentally friendly foods and four target behaviours: reducing overconsumption of food beyond energy needs, reducing consumption of low-nutrient energy dense foods, eating less animal- and more plant-derived foods, and reducing food waste.
Online consumer reviews (OCRs) are increasingly used by consumers to make informed decisions about tourism-related products. However, there is an increase in concern about the level of trustworthiness of OCRs. As yet, little is known about how consumers assess trustworthiness and untrustworthiness of OCRs. This study aims to fill this gap by using a grounded theory approach based on 38 interviews with users of OCRs. Results show that consumers primarily use cues related to the message content and style and review extremity and valence to assess trustworthiness. Findings indicate that moderating variables such as consumer involvement and experience as well as the type of website affects the way consumers assess trustworthiness. Reviews perceived as untrustworthy are discounted by consumers.
Objective: To explore factors that may influence use of comparative public reports for hospital maternity care. Data sources: Four focus groups conducted in 2013 with 41 women and preintervention survey data collected in 2014 to 2015 from 245 pregnant women in North Carolina. Study design: As part of a larger randomized controlled trial, we conducted qualitative formative research to develop an intervention that will be evaluated through pre- and postintervention surveys. Data extraction methods: Analysis of focus group transcripts examined participants' perceptions of high-quality maternity care and the importance of different quality measures. Quantitative analysis included descriptive results of the preintervention survey and subgroup analyses to examine the impact of race, education, and being a first-time mom on outcomes. Principal findings: When describing high-quality maternity care, participants focused on interactions with providers, including respect for preferences and communication. The importance of quality measures was influenced by the extent to which they focused on babies' health, were perceived as the hospital's responsibility, and were perceived as representing "standard care." At baseline, 28 percent of survey respondents had used quality information to choose a hospital. Survey respondents were more aware of some quality measures (e.g., breastfeeding support) than others (e.g., episiotomy rates). Conclusions: Public reporting efforts could help increase relevance of maternity care quality measures by creating measures that reflect women's concerns, clearly explaining the hospital's role in supporting quality care, and showing how available quality measures can inform decisions about childbirth.
Although online consumer reviews (OCRs) have helped consumers to know about the strengths and weaknesses of different products and find the ones that best suit their needs, they introduce a challenge for businesses to analyze them because of their volume, variety, velocity and veracity. This research investigates the predictors of readership and helpfulness of OCR using a sentiment mining approach for big data analytics. Our findings show that reviews with higher levels of positive sentiment in the title receive more readerships. Sentimental reviews with neutral polarity in the text are also perceived to be more helpful. The length and longevity of a review positively influence both its readership and helpfulness. Because the current methods used for sorting OCR may bias both their readership and helpfulness, the approach used in this study can be adopted by online vendors to develop scalable automated systems for sorting and classification of big OCR data which will benefit both vendors and consumers.
Online consumer-generated product reviews are a growing phenomenon and have led to the posting of colossal amounts of data by consumers on the Web. These data include consumers' thoughts, opinions, and feelings about brands and offer firms the opportunity to "listen in" on consumers to get a better understanding of the topics discussed about their brands. Using the human associative memory model as the theoretical framework, the authors introduce an approach to convert online product reviews into meaningful information about brand images using a novel combination of text mining and network analysis methodologies. Following a network-based understanding of brand image, the authors use online product reviews to extract consumers' brand associations and their interconnections as well as to depict and characterize the network of brand associations. In an empirical study, the authors test the approach and illustrate its managerial usefulness. The suggested approach allows managers to effectively monitor and detect strengths and weaknesses of brand image. Moreover, the proposed approach is one of the first attempts to measure brand image using consumer-generated content by applying text mining and network analysis.