Jan 31, 2014

Surfing Safely: Which Website Security Badges to Trust

Those small security badges featured at the bottom of online commerce pages may seem insignificant, but they can have a big impact on a company's online sales. According to Visual Website Optimizer, one conversion specialist ran a study of online websites displaying security badges, and found that those security badges can increase conversions by up to 32 percent.

The numbers prove that online consumers remain wary of online identity theft phishing schemes and other fraudulent activity. While it's smart for consumers to look for these security badges before forking over their purchasing information to an unknown online entity, not all security badges are created equal. Some have a much stronger reputation than others, while others may be more lax in how they verify the trustworthiness of an online retailer. And consumers can't rule out the possibility of a forged security badge on a malicious website. With a little attention to detail, though, consumers can use security badges to ensure they're only working with trustworthy businesses. Here's a guide to help you out:

Sizing up the Security Badges

There are a wide range of security badges out there, with some more popular than others. According to the Bamyard Institute, there are four online security badges that are recognized and trusted by at least 10 percent of online consumers. Norton is the clear leader in online security, with 35.6 percent of consumers recognizing and trusting the security badge. McAfee Secure's badge is next at 22.9 percent. Tied at 13.2 percent are the TRUSTe and BBB Accreditation security badges. But these aren't the only security badges out there. Businesses may display a wide range of valid security badges used to confirm their reputation as a trusted online retailer.

If you have certain security badges you know and trust, look for these first. Then familiarize yourself with other security badges that you might not recognize -- knowing these badges will help you out in the future when doing business with different online retailers.

Verifying Their Accuracy

The presence of badges is a great first step, but the visual image on its own doesn't mean anything. Typically, security badges need to feature a link to the actual security authenticator's website, and a web page that confirms that the retailer is a valid recipient of the security badge, according to Lawyers.com. The page will usually notate the date when the security badge was first awarded, and the duration of the security authentication. Review this information to make sure the badge is more than just a thumbnail displayed in hopes of fooling consumers.

Investigate How Badges are Earned and Maintained

According to McAfee's online security experts, a security badge is only as protective as the workings behind the verification process. Concerned consumers should look into the methods by which badges are awarded and maintained over time. It's best to put your trust in security badges that use regular audits of sales histories and transactions. Security badges that have continual updates to the security verification processes is also essential, in addition to specific metrics for measuring how well a retailer protects your personal information.

Don't Settle For a Single Badge

Last but not least, don't put all of your trust into a single badge. Part of the reason there are so many different security badges out there is that none of them offer comprehensive security and protection. Because of the variance in how websites are audited and reviewed to ensure security, there will always be holes in one company's security verification process. Look for websites with a number of security badges, and if the lack of security verification or badges is alarming to you, consider shopping somewhere else.

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