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How to keep personal and financial data safe while dining out

Like many other people, I have been enjoying visiting my local pubs and restaurants more often recently – whether it was taking advantage of Eat Out to Help Out or just visiting places I had never tried before.

The only hiccup on these evenings has been the payment systems. Food and drink operators have done such a stellar job of adjusting their venues to make them Covid-safe that I found myself signing into a different website or app every time I wanted to order. This often means handing over your information to sign into the venue’s Wi-Fi, downloading their app or visiting an unfamiliar website and providing card details.

As someone who spends a fair amount of my week reading about scams, and who spent my teenage years slightly obsessed with watching The Real Hustle, these methods have got me a little jittery. While there is almost certainly nothing to worry about in most cases, it felt odd to be putting my debit card details into all these new sites. So I decided to ask some cyber security experts for their tips on how to keep our money safe.

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Most systems likely to be secure

Jonathan Miles is senior threat intelligence analyst at Mimecast, a cloud cyber security service company. He pointed out that it is in the interest of the businesses behind these payment solutions to ensure they are secure. “There is always the danger that usability and convenience will be put before cyber security, but I would hope that in this day and age businesses are providing the necessary protection,” he says.

Ultimately, he says, it is down to the venue to make sure their customers’ data is safe.

“Firstly, never click on any links asking you to download an application and always go to the official app store to ensure you are using the most up to date version.”

Watch out for Wi-Fi

McAfee’s Jesús Sanchez-Aguilera Garcia warned to also keep an eye on unfamiliar Wi-Fi networks. You should avoid public networks that do not require a password, as he says these can mean “unknowingly exposing personal information or credit card details to cyber criminals who are snooping”.

“If you have to conduct transactions on a public Wi-Fi connection, using a virtual private network (VPN) can help keep your connection secure.”

Some more tips from McAfee include regularly viewing your online banking accounts to check for suspicious transactions, setting up two-factor authentication on online accounts and using security software to block malware when browsing the internet.

It’s my hope that the fragmented range of payment options currently available when dining out will soon coalesce around one or two trusted apps. But in the meantime, be on your guard. If you are really uncomfortable with a system or finding it difficult to work, most venues still have card machines ready as a back-up.


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