You’ve probably noticed that when you’re shopping online, your browser will often ask if you want to save your credit card details for future purchases. It’s a time-saving measure that can be tempting to take advantage of—but is it safe?
When you’re entering your credit card details into a website, your browser is actually storing that information in a secure location, sometimes known as a “keychain.” Keychains are encrypted folders that are used to store sensitive information—like passwords and credit card numbers—so that you don’t have to remember them all yourself. That way, when you go to enter your credit card number on a website again, all you have to do is tell your browser to “fetch” the stored information from your keychain and auto-fill it for you.
This is convenient, but is it secure?
In theory, this sounds like a great idea, and for the most part, it is. Having your credit card information stored in a keychain is incredibly convenient and can save you a lot of time when shopping online.
However, there are some risks to consider before taking advantage of this feature. First and foremost among those risks is the fact that if your computer is ever stolen or hacked, someone could potentially gain access to your stored credit card details. Granted, this is true of any stored sensitive information — not just credit card details — but it’s still something to keep in mind.
Also, this means your credit card details are only as secure as your computer login is. So do you share your computer with other people? Perhaps a child or roommate? They might not steal your credit card details, but they can accidentally make a purchase with your details instead of theirs… or just buy something and not tell you. So storing credit card information on a share computer is not the best idea.
Also, if you are considering storing your credit card information on a work computer, you’ll have to understand that the security team at work might be able to get at your information. Using a virtual desktop or similar way to access your machine, they can login as you and see your information. This seems like an unlikely scenario, but it’s not impossible.
Next, you’ll have to be safe how you dispose of your computer when you are done with it. If your credit car details are on your computer and its hard drive, and you just throw out the hard drive or computer one day, then your details may fall into the wrong hands, if your computer and the disk aren’t fully encrypted.
Another potential risk is that some keychains have been known to be unstable and prone to crashes. If this happens, there’s a chance that your stored credit card details could be lost forever. Fortunately, this isn’t a very common problem—but it’s still something to be aware of.
Overall, storing your credit card details in a keychain is generally safe — but there are some risks involved that you should be aware of before taking advantage of this feature. However, as long as you keep these risks in mind and take precautions accordingly, storing your credit card details in a keychain can be a huge time-saver. If you always use a password to secure your computer login and also always use a password to secure your browser then you should be fine!