Since 2008, The number of Internet users in China exceeds the United States and became the world’s first, Internet penetration has once again soared to catch up with and exceed the global average. With the rapid development of information technology and computer network, e-commerce has been greatly promoted. However, due to the openness of the Internet, network security problems increasingly become a key problem restricting the development of electronic commerce. In recent years, Chinese e-commerce market development, network information security defects gradually exposed.
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In this context, this study takes Taobao company as an example, starting from the background and development status of Taobao, discusses the issues related to the protection of consumer privacy by Taobao, deeply analyzes the defects of consumer information security protection, considers how to strengthen the protection of consumer information security in the network environment from the technical aspect. Finally, Suggestions to protect consumer information.
With the development of Internet technology, e-commerce as an important application of the Internet has played an indispensable role in China’s economic and social life. The rapid growth of Internet users and the diversification of their demand have greatly enhanced the information of the Internet and business value. Taobao.com is the largest e-commerce platform in China and the largest online retail circle in the Asia Pacific. Taobao’s consumer information security is at the leading level in China, and it has many means to protect consumer information security. However, the effect is not ideal, indicating that the Chinese e-commerce industry has many deficiencies in consumer information protection, which needs to be paid attention to. When people enjoy the convenience brought by Taobao, they should also be aware of the fragility and potential threats of the Internet, and constantly enhance information browsing. Only safeguard the interests of the individual and social security, timely take effective safety measures can fully enjoy the benefits of the Internet.
- Background of Taobao company.
Taobao (www.taobao.com) was founded in May 2003 by the Alibaba Group (China). Taobao, as the name implies — no goods can not find, no goods can not sell. Since its establishment on May 10, 2003, taobao.com has rapidly occupied the leading position in the Chinese individual trading market in a short period of six months. Taobao mainly promotes C2C (consumer-to-consumer) online transactions. Individual or small business sellers can set up online stores on Taobao for consumers in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and overseas. Sellers can sell new or used goods, or they can choose to sell them at a set price or in an auction, but the majority of Taobao’s products are new and sold at a set price, and auctions account for only a small portion of all transactions. In 2005, Taobao surpassed eBay and its turnover exceeded Walmart by 8 billion yuan. Within a few years, taobao.com has rapidly grown into the leader of the domestic C2C trading market, creating a miracle for the development of Internet e-commerce enterprises. It is a Chinese popular online retail platform, with nearly 500 million active users, the base easily exceeds the size of the U.S. population. There are more than 60 million regular visitors every day, at the same time, every day the number of online products has exceeded 800 million, sold 48000 items per minute on average. The number of goods on Taobao has increased significantly in recent years, from cars and computers to clothing and household items, with complete categories. In addition, the online game equipment trading area and virtual currency trading area are also set up.
In China, November 11, 2009, began to become the Taobao shopping festival. The sales volume on that day in 2009 was RMB 50 million, which set a new record every year. In 2013, the number of orders reached 339,000 and the total turnover reached RMB 117 million within one minute after the opening of that day. The total turnover on that day exceeded RMB 30 billion, reaching RMB 35.019 billion. In 2018, the turnover reached 1 billion yuan in 21 seconds and reached 213.5 billion yuan in shopping.
b. Current situation and objectives of network information security.
The Internet company’s business development more quickly, the more urgent and higher demand for security. Taobao has hundreds of product lines, but no one can say exactly what they are. Why is that? Because these products are changing every day, and there are new product lines or changes. Internet business growth is extremely fast, many security products can only start to develop independently.
Since 2005, Taobao has set up the network security department on the basis of the original work. They hired the people who are from the original public security system with many years of criminal investigation experience, using a variety of technical tools, combined with their years of professional experience, full-time responsible for tracking and monitoring Taobao daily online transactions, and continuously develop and improve all the safety protection measures in the system process.
Taobao’s communication system on the building of the server to ensure the security of trading information transmission, guarantee the absolute security of the database server and prevent the destruction of the hackers. Achieve the goals of information security: confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Taobao is very particular about integrity security construction, such as buyers and sellers in the payment link for transaction security problems, Taobao launched the delivery method of payment, in order to reduce the risk of the transaction.
However, any mechanism needs to be adjusted over time, which plays a valuable role for consumers and even Chinese e-commerce. The successful launch of the Alipay platform has improved consumers’ confidence, but the defects of the logistics platform have gradually emerged with the passage of time. Personal information in online shopping can be divided into three categories: Personal Basic Information, online storage information and online activity information of consumers. In a complete shopping online transaction, many links will involve personal information, such as login account registration, online payment and logistics, and transportation. This involves identifying personal information such as the consumer’s name, phone number, and address. The second includes online storage space and offline storage space. Online includes the consumer’s personal email address, network disk, website account information and cloud storage. Offline storage space is consumer not uploaded to the network environment of information storage, such as personal computers and mobile hard disk drive. The third type is that sometimes customers want to buy more cost-effective products, they will search for different related products page, the website backstage will be recorded. After several search goods, the website will automatically push search before related products, which not only provides convenience but also involves consumers’ privacy. It can be seen that the online shopping environment involves a wide range of personal information, and the ways of the disclosure are diverse, and all of them have strong personal identification attributes and business values. Because of the imperfect logistics platform, it enables buyers to reveal personal information when shopping, which also becomes a means for sellers to carry out illegal acts against buyers.
Taobao’s consumer information security protection must be completed under a certain legal environment. However, Chinese current laws and regulations on consumer information security protection in e-commerce still have obvious defects. The Chinese law has little to do with e-commerce consumer information security, it does not clearly define the content of privacy, nor does it explain the violation of consumer information security and penalties. That makes it impossible for consumers to protect their rights and benefits under limited laws when they are violated by privacy rights under e-commerce, and individuals or organizations that violate consumer information security cannot be strictly punished. This limits the ability of e-commerce platforms such as Taobao to protect the consumer information security, to promote consumer information security violations of the increasing number of cases.
Taobao is located in the e-commerce industry, the protection of consumer information security is in a relatively poor environment. At present, the e-commerce industry has not unified constraints on e-commerce enterprises and businesses and has not established a credit platform for merchants and enterprises. In the current situation of defects in the Chinese legal environment and an insufficient industrial environment, the protection of consumers’ privacy will be mainly completed by Taobao itself. As mentioned above, although Taobao has adopted technical measures to protect consumers’ personal privacy. In addition, they adopted measures including economic measures and punishment measures to maintain consumer information security. But fundamentally, Taobao’s protection of consumer information security falls behind the requirements of consumer information security protection, leading to the increasing number of consumer information security leaks.
Defects in the protection of Taobao’s consumer information security
The operation of e-commerce involves many security issues, such as capital security, information security, cargo security, trade secret security, etc. Among them, the most concerned and worrying is the consumers’ information security in network transactions. In recent years, more and more crimes such as fraud have been committed by using Taobao’s information disclosure.
a. Increase of consumer information breach
Earlier, Alipay had an employee selling 20G users’ information. The news sparked heated debate among the public. A piece of valuable consumer information can be sold for thousands of dollars. Such an eye-catching business opportunity makes the industry chain of selling network information gradually emerge in front of the public. Such an eye-catching “business” makes the industry of selling consumer information gradually emerge in front of the public.
There have been multiple reasons for the breach of consumer information.
The primary one is that consumers do not attach importance to personal information protection. While shopping on Taobao, consumers trust businesses too much and provide their personal information unreservedly in order to complete the transaction. For example, when they see some promotions, consumers tend to fill in their personal information without realizing that their personal information is inadvertently leaked out. In addition, consumers lack awareness of information protection and certain protection skills. They do not use an anonymous login, or set login passwords, or install security management software, and know little about computer network security.
Secondly, the characteristics of e-commerce transactions force consumers to provide real information(Guan Shen, Chen You, Li Wei, & Li Liping, 2013). In e-commerce, consumer information also includes the identity card, the goods purchased and the consumption. Even if consumers are reluctant to fill in their real information when they register online, due to the implementation of the real-name system of express recipients and senders, consumers have to fill in real information when shopping, which leads to consumers in a passive position in protecting personal information.
What’s more, apart from the fact that consumers need to fill in their addresses, names and contact methods to ensure receipt of goods when creating orders, after transactions, Taobao provides a platform for both sides to evaluate each other’s performance in the transaction, which can accumulate credit and serve as a basis for future selection. But when consumers leave their comments, their personal information will automatically attach to the seller’s evaluation trace, exposing the consumer’s personal information to the seller. If the consumer gives bad reviews, some sellers with bad intentions may retaliate consumers maliciously according to the personal information exposed by consumers.
Thirdly, the technology vulnerabilities of Taobao can also lead to leaks of consumer information. Some hackers collect a lot of username and password information on the Internet and use the “crash” way to grab a large number of user data. Also, the public network is more harmful than the private network. The public network might be hijacked by criminals, in which way consumers’ personal information can be easily stolen.
The fourth reason is that some network servers would collect user data for more accurate marketing (Zhu Chunyao, & Xiao Yi, 2018). They will also track user behavior. Most of the consumers’ behavior on the network will be recorded secretly. These massive user data are utilized for tracking and marketing. When consumers open related web pages again, similar advertising information will jump out. Most of these actions of network service providers belong to commercial marketing. Although these actions are legal at present, a large amount of spam information is likely to disturb users.
Last but not least, the law on consumer information protection is not perfect and the cost of violating the law is relatively very low. At present, China has formulated regulations on the protection of personal privacy. There are nearly 40 laws and 30 regulations concerning the protection of personal information, but the contents of these laws and regulations are scattered and confusing. At present, there are no complete and systematic laws on personal information protection. Especially, there are few laws about consumer privacy in e-commerce. The incomplete legal formulation leads to some difficulties in practical operation, and in many cases, it is impossible to follow them.
b. Consumer losses have expanded
Under the multiple influences of the above five reasons, the information security of consumers is becoming more and more fragile. Facts have proved that consumers’ worries are not unfounded. In recent years, more and more consumers’ shopping information leaks, resulting in endless problems.
The amount of fraud cases caused by the leakage of consumer information has reached nearly millions of dollars, and the number of victims is as high as 10 thousand. On average, one out of every 11 people has ever received a fraudulent call (Ni Ning, 2014). With the increase in fraud, the loss of consumers is also gradually expanding.
One of the common problems is that consumers will receive a large number of text messages, phone calls, spam harassment at different times after shopping on the platform. Usually, sellers use these methods to promote sales. But there is also a strong possibility that consumers will encounter fraudulent incidents, such as winning a reward, court summons, pretending to be acquaintances or fabricating a tragic accident story to ask for remittances. Also, many criminals pretend to be Taobao’s customer service, and they will tell consumers that they are out of stock and need to close the deal. They will bypass Taobao’s regular payment channels and secured trading platforms, obtain important information such as bank card number from, ask for mobile phone dynamic verification code to transfer money and entice victims to use online bank remittances to criminals,
In March 2019, there was news about a criminal pretending to be customer service from sellers in Taobao (The fraud, 2018). Less than a few hours after Miss Qing completed the transaction payment, she received a call from someone claiming to be customer service from Taobao. He told MISS Qing the order had not been submitted successfully and he needed to refund the payment. Because the criminals have stolen all the order information of Miss Qing, and the order number and the name of the goods could match Miss Qing’s order, she did not think twice and let her guard down. Miss Qing received the refund link according to the instructions of the “customer service”. Also, Miss Qing opened the link and did not find anything unusual. She filled in her name, ID card, credit card, password, and other information according to the instructions of the web page. However, what Miss Qing didn’t expect was that soon after she clicked on the confirmation, she received a short message from the bank, which showed the message of paying more than $2,000. Until that time, Miss Qing realized that she was deceived by fake customer service.
In addition to luring remittances from phishing websites, illegal cases of illegal selling consumer information have emerged. In September 2017, a man used the administrator’s account of the former company to steal personal information from the company’s customers and sell it (Qing T, 2017 ). When he was captured, he had obtained more than 10 million pieces of citizen information through illegal means, mainly female college students and white-collar workers. He made a profit of 100 thousand dollars from selling a large amount of personal information to suspects all over the country through the Internet.
According to him, at first, he just sold some “old” consumer orders, but then the buyers asked for more recent information which is in the past few months. But even he didn’t know where the data he sold eventually went. It is certain that this is a nationwide online network.
From the news above, it is clear that the value of consumer’s information is rather high. With a large number of consumer information gathering together, something terrible can be easily done. How to address these information security and privacy issues need the attention and participation of relevant state departments, online businesses, and consumers themselves.
Taobao’ strategy of information security protection
The strategy of Taobao’s information security is mainly about two categories, technical strategy, and process protection. Currently, Taobao’s main measures for consumer information security protection are based on technical means. It has certain control over the hidden and technical problems of privacy violations under consumer e-commerce. As auxiliary protection, process protection better guarantees the information security, rights and interests of consumers.
a. Technical strategy
When Taobao protects consumer information, the first thing is to use cryptography. Cryptography technology mainly includes information encryption technology, digital technology, and security authentication technology. These technologies can relatively comprehensively protect the confidentiality, authenticity, and integrity of consumers’ personal information. To a certain extent, avoid false logins, leaks or changes during data transfer, and data loss caused by unreliable situations (Rouse). Taobao’s cryptography technology is mainly used to protect consumers’ accounts. Consumers are required to design personalized and rigorous passwords and protect them through technical means. In the transaction, only consumers with personalized information can be learned and use the data, avoid the direct violation of consumer information by the outside.
3. Intrusion detection
Intrusion detection technology is a network security technology that actively protects itself from attack (“What is an Intrusion Detection System?”). Taobao intrusion detection technology is an effective supplement to firewall technology, focusing on the auxiliary system to respond to network attacks. Through this technology, Taobao will use its own technical force to timely record, track, restore or disconnect the network and other violations, avoid excessive leakage of consumer privacy of Taobao due to hacker attacks. By using intrusion detection technology, Taobao has effectively reduced the degree and frequency of hacker attacks, to a certain extent to achieve the protection of consumer information. As the parent company of Taobao, Alibaba has established a comprehensive security laboratory structure and established multiple laboratories to complete multi-directional real-time network monitoring. Among them, Ali security Pandora lab is mainly used to study the field of mobile security, attack, and defense against IOS and Android system security. Ali security zero laboratories are committed to the study of network space threat technology and industrial chain, and to deal with network violations and crimes with technical means.
PKI technology is a public key infrastructure, which follows a public key encryption technology for electronic commerce. Mainly through cryptography, digital certificates, certificate issuing institutions and public-key security policy for information maintenance. The PKI technology of Taobao is mainly cryptography technology and digital certificate technology, especially the digital certificate technology will timely update the privacy protection ability of consumers, and constantly improve the privacy protection ability of consumers in online shopping.
b.Process protection strategy
1. Third-party payment intermediary–Alipay
In daily transactions, cash on delivery is very usual. But in online shopping, this is not an easy thing. The seller and buyer do not face to face, so get the goods immediately after payment is not possible. One of them must have action first, but sellers are reluctant to deliver goods before receiving the payment because they are afraid that they will not receive the money if they deliver the goods first. Buyers are unwilling to pay before receiving the goods because they are afraid that they will not receive the money if they pay the money first. Users are very cautious about the online transaction model, at the time, there were indeed some phenomena in which scammers received money and did not ship the product. In order for Taobao to develop further and solve this problem, it is necessary to build a relationship of trust between buyers and sellers, Taobao launched Alipay as a third-party payment intermediary in 2004 (Soo & Tao, 2018), making Taobao’s online transaction subject become merchants, consumers, and Alipay.
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How does Alipay work? Buyers pay for goods after select, but not directly to the seller, but to Alipay, while orders are generated. The seller delivers the goods after receiving the order. When the buyer receives the goods and accepts them, agreed to pay the payment to Alipay, then the seller will receive the payment and the order will be completed. If the buyer doesn’t receive the goods, or the goods don’t match the description, the buyer can apply to Alipay for a refund and close the transaction. In this way, it is indeed to avoid a lot of consumers being cheated things and also to protect the rights and interests of consumers.
2. Taobao’s credit rating system
Similarly, Taobao’s credit rating system can also serve as a security certificate. After all, no one is willing to buy something from a seller with a lower credit limit. Taobao’s seller credit rating ranges from three stars, four stars, five stars, and one to four crowns. After each order is completed on Taobao, both the seller and buyer make a comment on their transaction, which is called a credit score. When consumers enter the merchant purchase page, they can check the merchant’s reputation and sales volume. At the end of the transaction, both parties side should evaluate each other and adopt this measure to protect the credit of both sides.
Taobao will regularly carry out spot checks and reviews of sellers’ integrity, Timely handling of sellers whose credit rating is not consistent with their actual integrity. Meanwhile, Taobao also introduced a consumer supervision mechanism to provide convenience for consumers to complain about sellers online. And take it as an important content of the seller’s credit evaluation, so that the position and role of consumers in the construction of the seller’s credit safety can be enhanced. This makes sellers based on the pursuit of credibility and maintenance, relatively positive respect and protection of consumer information. In this way, consumers will not encounter bad merchants in shopping, and merchants can recognize the buyers with poor reputation when selling goods.
Suggestions for improving Taobao’s consumer information security protection
a. Technical aspect
Taobao must constantly improve its consumer information security protection capabilities. This requires Taobao’s existing capabilities, continuous innovation, upgrade technology and rich means of privacy protection to enhance Taobao’s ability to protect the information security of e-commerce consumers.
1. Taobao needs to further strengthen the construction of the security center
Although Taobao reformed the security center in 2011-2012, its security center’s ability to protect consumer information security is still poor. Taobao needs to link the technical analysis and technical protection of the security center with the market situation, collect and analyze the consumer information security leakage incidents in the industry, pay attention to the consumer information security disclosure. Taobao will grasp the technical core of consumer information security disclosure and develop targeted technical protection measures to upgrade the technical capabilities for consumer information security protection. Taobao must also carry out system maintenance and upgrade of the security center for the security center to avoid more serious information leakage of consumers due to information leakage in the security center. This requires attention to timely maintenance and upgrade of the software system, timely update, and repair of the hardware, to ensure that the security center can play a substantial role in maintaining consumer information security.
2. Enhancing consumer verification protection system
Taobao needs to upgrade and integrate the existing technical protection measures, clarify the loopholes in current technical measures, and then repair it in a targeted manner. In particular, Taobao should further strengthen the construction of technology protection systems in large-scale promotional activities. For example, during the Double Eleven (China’s Black Friday), Taobao must focus on the security risks of the trading system while keeping the website running stable, ensuring that non-Taobao or non-secure payment systems and other related websites will not automatically display. For the unsecured staff, send it to the consumer interface, thereby reducing the potential safety hazards of the consumer’s large amount of information during large-scale events. This requires Taobao to predict the future consumer information security situation based on the existing resources, and try to upgrade the technology before the consumer information security leak occurs. At the same time, Taobao needs to strengthen the protection of consumers’ privacy protection, guide consumers to learn to use Taobao resources to protect their privacy and thus avoid privacy leakage caused by consumers’ personal negligence.
3. Set automatic risk warning and detection processing system
Taobao should use the important words of consumer information as the detection key, and when the behavior of the important information of the consumer is spread or consumed outside the consumer, the early warning system will be used to shield and intercept the information, and timely give Consumers’ personal accounts send information to ensure that consumers can understand the situation for the first time, and adopt password modification and encryption to reduce information security risks. In addition, Taobao also needs to consider establishing a personalized personal information security protection mechanism for consumers. Consumers set their own passwords or keywords and automatically browse consumer information when consumers do not allow or do not authorize. Intercept relevant browsing and automatically report to reduce consumer information security risks. According to Mocan(2019), when you shop or chat online, the internet also steal and collect your personal information from your behaviors, then sell or use this information illegally. As a result, an automatic risk warning system might help consumers avoid identity theft.
4. Strict accountability to businesses that disclose consumer information
Increase the penalties for businesses that disclose consumer information security, and ensure that merchants within Taobao can operate on the basis of good faith and avoid the situation of profiting by leaking privacy. For hackers and other people who focus on attacking Taobao data to obtain consumer privacy, they should strictly investigate the responsibilities of hackers, strictly rely on the legal basis, and continuously improve the ability to protect consumers’ information security under the e-commerce environment through their own efforts.
5. Establish a real-name review mechanism for consumer and business information
With the real-name review of consumer and merchant information, the risk of consumer information disclosure in online trading activities on the website can be reduced. At present, Taobao has launched a real-name review of registered Tmall users, but the real-name review of registered small sellers and consumers has not yet been opened, which makes it difficult to improve the security precautions of the entire network system. On the one hand, the qualifications of Taobao and the sellers are clearly defined and the normalization supervision mechanism for Taobao and online transaction sellers is established. Whether it is Taobao or a profitable seller or a non-profit seller on the ordinary website, The qualifications of the main body are clearly defined, especially for profitable sellers, and their nature should be defined as a for-profit legal person organization. Non-profit legal person organizations are not allowed to engage in profit-based organization network transactions. In order to protect the interests of consumers, the seller’s capital should be set to a minimum limit to increase the barriers to entry in the online trading market. On the other hand, it is necessary to promote the development of the real-name registration system and the real-name protection system of the sellers and pay attention to the standardization requirements of the network real-name system review mechanism. The specific departments and specific processes of the audit should be clearly defined, and the authenticity of the network information should be emphasized. Strictly administration according to law, improve the standardization and effectiveness of the Internet audit mechanism. Re-establish a perfect Internet information review mechanism to avoid fraudulent use or falsification of other people’s information registration, resulting in the failure of the network real-name system and harming the rights and interests of others. This requires a review of the registration information source, a preliminary analysis based on the registered IP address and the location of the registered person of the actual registration information, and further verification of the registration status in the field. The registration information is reviewed to increase the personalization problem that can identify the authenticity of the personal registration information, and further determine whether the registrant information is true. Only by ensuring that registered users are real citizens can the effect of the real-name system of the network be promoted and network security is maintained. In addition, the behavior of stealing other consumers’ information by using the identity of the buyer and improper use is reduced. At the same time, the real-name system also helps to strengthen the investigation and collection of consumer information leakage incidents, and reduce the social harm of information leakage.
b. Management advice
1. To strengthen consumer information security protection, in addition to Taobao’s own efforts, it is also necessary to strengthen the e-commerce association’s technical protection research and development and investment in consumer information security. Establish an information interaction mechanism within the e-commerce association, and publish timely information on the network platform and its merchants on the protection and infringement of consumer rights and interests. Effectively remind e-commerce companies to pay more attention to consumer information security protection under e-commerce, rational use of enterprise technology, etc., to promote e-commerce enterprises to better maintain consumer information security. Establish an audit and punishment mechanism for industrial enterprises to protect consumer information security technologies. It should be set up by industry associations to set up consumer information security protection technologies and strategies for e-commerce enterprises, and build a unified consumer information security protection network for the whole industry, for consumer information security in the e-commerce environment. Protection creates conditions. Moreover, the industry associations have come forward to establish certain punishment and warning mechanisms for e-commerce enterprises with obvious loopholes in consumer information security protection, and continuously improve the ability of e-commerce enterprises to protect consumers’ privacy rights.
2. Taobao’s current privacy protections for consumers will be mainly completed by Taobao itself. As mentioned above, Taobao currently adopts a technical means to protect the privacy of consumers and adopts measures including economic means and punishment to maintain consumer information security. But fundamentally speaking, Taobao’s protection of consumer information security lags behind the requirements of consumer information security protection, leading to an increase in consumer information security leaks. This is because the leakage of consumer information security under e-commerce is more complicated, and the specific means and methods of leaking it are more complicated. Under the high concealment and technicality, Taobao often protects consumer information security more than consumption. In other words, Taobao is able to play an economic and punitive measure of consumer information security protection after the privacy of consumers has been leaked. Since the consequences of consumer information security disclosure are difficult to define, their responsibilities must be effectively divided. Based on a clear legal basis and company rules and regulations, Taobao needs to be accountable to the relevant responsible persons within the company through corporate strength.
Comprehensive full text, in the development of e-commerce, consumer information security has the risk of being leaked, strengthen the protection of consumer information security, need to focus on strengthening multiple aspects at the same time. Enterprises should play an important role in protecting the information, and constantly build a technical support system for deeper protection of more comprehensive consumer information, and gradually improve the relevant management system, in order to maintain information security and promote the development of e-commerce.
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- Soo, Z., & Tao, L. (2018, August 24). How Alibaba’s Taobao changed the way Chinese consumers shop. Retrieved from https://www.scmp.com/tech/enterprises/article/2161082/how-alibabas-taobao-solved-trust-problem-china-and-changed-way#
- Mocan, T. (2019, May 14). Online Shopping Security (Common Threats & Safety Tips). Retrieved from https://www.cactusvpn.com/beginners-guide-online-security/online-shopping-security/
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