Zappos certainly started the New Years off with a bang. With the recent security breach and Zappos asking all employees, regardless of department, to help answer customer e-mails, I had the opportunity to see first hand how common some misconceptions are, when it comes to hacking. I’ve certainly run into this when talking with my family, so it’s stuff I’ve certainly found myself explaining in the past.

First off, just because a hacker accesses customer info doesn’t mean the company was negligent, of course doesn’t mean it wasn’t either.

Secondly, websites are constantly under attack, successful attacks or not. In fact, several prominent sites, even sites focused on security (RSA, HBGary)  have been hacked. Brian White, managing director of the Chertoff Group, even states that “This is no longer a question of if, it’s a question of when [a company will be hacked].” I say this, not to discount the severity of this case, but to bring a bit more awareness. Just as any physical building can be broken into, well so can any site. Our own governments CIA website taken down for  over 2 hours.

Third, online retailers are held accountable to the IRS. Why do I mention this? Well, like any brick and mortar store, e-commerce sites have to maintain records of their sales and cannot simply delete this information, just as equivalent paperwork cannot (legally) be shredded, at least for 7 years. This appears to be a topic of contention. If a brick and mortar store were to be broken into, would customers expect the store to shred receipts or delete them from whatever company computer the company may own? …I guess I wouldn’t be surprised, but I’d like to assume, such requests would be very limited.

So, what should consumers do? Well there are a few things I can think of right off. Be wary of who you give your information to, and cautious of what information you give away or accept the consequences, don’t use the same password for everything, and maybe even use a virtual credit card. I’m sure there are many more suggestions out there too but that isn’t the focus of this post.

It’s highly important for e-consumers to shop savvy. Understanding there is a chance their information will be accessed, no matter who they shop with, comes hand in hand with online shopping. Maybe not saving billing/shipping addresses or credit card information and reentering it for every order is worth their time. Watch credit reports for unauthorized activities and watch banking information.

Happy shopping! ….oh, cute shoes! 😉