Online Payments Raise Cybersecurity and Privacy Concerns

The trend of online payments has increased a lot during the last few years. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has helped in pushing it further.

During COVID-19, the majority of people were dependent on purchasing and paying online. And this became the new normal as people found it more convenient than cash payments.

But you know what? Digital payments are not 100% secure. Various online threats raise concern over cybersecurity and privacy. This article briefly explains the risks and ways to eliminate threats.

Process of Online Transactions

There are broadly four steps in online transactions.

  1. You find a specific item you want to purchase. Soon enough, you head to the checkout and provide the necessary details to authenticate your purchase.
  2. The information you provide, like credit card number, get encrypted and authenticated by the payment gateway and processor.
  3. The transaction arrives at the client’s credit card issuer. Then, the request is either implemented or rejected.
  4. Your bank provider transfers the money to your selected business or person.

From this transaction model, we can see two key points, user information and bank accounts. While this process takes seconds, there are opportunities for criminals to eavesdrop. For instance, you should never supply credit card details to websites working on HTTP. It means that your data does not get encrypted, and cybercriminals might intercept it.

Methods of Digital Payments

  • Credit/debit cards. In this mode of payment, a person enters their credit card details in the bank’s website (or the merchant’s website) and then transfers money to them.
  • E-wallets/Netbanking. It is an online bank account that allows the user to transfer money into someone’s account. It works the same as a debit card, but you enter online bank account credentials instead of entering credit card details here.
  • Digital payment apps. These are mobile payment apps that allow users to make transactions without cash. They use QR codes, NFC, and USSD for transactions.
  • E-cheque method. The bank uses this method to send an online payment order to the receiver’s bank. The receiver enters the amount on the validation field, and their account gets debited.

Cybersecurity and Privacy Threats to Online Payments

All digital payments have one common point: the victim, i.e., users’ account details and passwords. So, let’s see how cybercriminals can get this information.

Phishing Attacks

Phishing means a malicious attempt to steal information from a website or app. In this method, cybercriminals create fake websites and SMSs that look the same as genuine ones. They also call up users pretending to be representatives of banks and ask for their account/password details which they then use to hack into their bank accounts. You can also receive phishing emails, which is a very common strategy.

Password Attacks

Cybercriminals use password attacks to break into bank accounts. They try different combinations of usernames and passwords to login into the victim’s account. They also use the brute-force method, which uses sophisticated software to test thousands of random alphanumeric sequences until it finds a match.


It is malicious software that steals or destroys information from computers and mobile devices. There are various types of malware, ranging from Trojans to ransomware, etc. Cybercriminals can use them to get victims’ login IDs and passwords which they then use to break into their bank accounts.

The Way Out?

Use Two-factor Authentication

It is an extreme security measure that requires two steps to verify transactions. You have to provide a password and also enter the verification code sent by the bank. This makes online payments more secure as it’s difficult for cybercriminals to break into bank accounts using just one step.

Use Virtual Cards/Credit Cards

Virtual cards are online credit card numbers that can be used only once. So, if a cybercriminal gains access to the card number, they won’t be able to use it again. It means your account is at less risk of getting hacked.

Use Security Apps

There are many apps available that have security features to protect accounts. Some of them are LastPass, Authy, etc. They can be used on both mobile and laptop devices for an added layer of security.

Create Strong Passwords

This is very important for everyone who prefers online methods. You might have the best antivirus, but if you use the same password for all accounts, it will be easy for attackers to gain access to them. So always create strong passwords which are difficult to guess or hack into. And also change passwords regularly.

Transaction Verification Codes

In this method, the bank sends an SMS or USSD code to verify transactions from one account to another. This code consists of 8-12 digits and is unique for every transaction. So, it increases the security level a lot as no two transactions can have the same verification codes.

Use VPNs

An excellent browsing VPN ensures that you can always rely on robust encryption of your data. A Virtual Private Network transfers all of your data via an encrypted tunnel. Luckily, no one but the intended recipients can see the inside. Thus, your data gets nicely wrapped in encryption, regardless of the network used or website visited.


The online payments system is very secure and safe compared to cash transactions. But they can’t be totally avoided from becoming prone to cyberattacks. So always use two-step verification for added security and avoid downloading apps that seem suspicious or difficult to trust; chances are they might be fake.


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