Increasingly, Canadians are turning to online e-commerce websites for their daily purchases. But with hacking news of online weed dispensaries like JJmeds, cyber security concerns have become more important than ever.

Statista estimates that 22.5 million Canadians purchased from an online retailer in 2018. And the number is only expected to grow in this digital age.

If we’re to learn anything from the hacking of JJmeds, it’s that protecting yourself from cybercrime is an important process in keeping your money and yourself safe.

E-Commerce sites, more often than not, are encrypted and protected from malpractice. But even the government ran websites can fall prey to those with bad intentions.

As a cannabis consumer, this is how you can keep yourself safe and shop with peace of mind.

Related Article: Will Survive Legalization? 5 Reasons Why They Will

Shopping Online for Cannabis: Is it Safe?

As we had mentioned, Canadians have gone the way of the internet to purchase their daily needs. From groceries to recreational items, the possibilities are limitless with E-Commerce websites. Retail Giants Amazon and Alibaba offer competitive pricing and same day delivery. Clearly, people are becoming used to speed and convenience.

For those pressed for time and running a busy schedule, freeing up hours from their day is a major plus. But online, you can do more than stock up on household goods these days.

Now cannabis MOMs like JJMeds and LP’s have spread their wings and captured the attention of customers who used to buy marijuana from their local source.

This begs the question – is it safe to buy cannabis online? The short answer is ‘yes’, but it’s important to be careful.

With any sector comes the risk of cyber attacks. Even the Pentagon, the most “secure” and trusted organization on the planet, has had its share of hacks.

As recently as October 2018, the Pentagon suffered a cyber break and enter resulting in the information of 30,000 employees released!

This is no small drop in the bucket, but the information released could have been much worse.

JJ Meds Contacts List Held Ransom For BitCoin

Vice recently interviewed Canadian MOM, JJ Meds, over their recent cyber hack. This resulted in the information of their client base being held ransom for an exuberant $1000, or 0.067 of a bitcoin.

JJ Meds weren’t the only ones that received the malicious threat. But they were among the few that were brave enough to speak up on the matter. As any good online retailer would do, they shut down their website and secured all client information.

This is what their owner had to say on the matter.

“I still haven’t been able to sleep properly,” he said, according to Vice. The owner claimed that they’d be lucky to see $100,000 in profits, and this would be shared between 3 owners and staff. Their discount prices allow them to remain competitive in a saturated market.

A notorious attack on a company that prides itself on providing Canadians with awesome medicinal service.

The hacker claimed they had worked for JJMeds and are owed $5000 of back pay. They claim that the company was selling customer information to purchasers in the darknet.

This was later found to be false. The attacker was trying to make a quick buck off of a company that didn’t deserve the hack.

7 Tips to Protect Yourself When Shopping Online

This situation with JJMeds isn’t your everyday, run of the mill situation.

But it has set alarm bells for the everyday consumer too. That’s why we’re going to go through some steps you can take to protect yourself from cyber attacks.

1. Use a trusted website

This may seem redundant, but using a trusted website is the first step to keeping yourself safe. Some websites are designed to trick you into thinking their legitimate. By changing the .com to .co or .net, they may be trying to appear like a standard site.

Also, it’s a great idea to check with plenty of reviews online and across the internet. Reddit is a great source for reviews.

2. Are they asking for TMI (Too Much Information)?

Ok, so it’s normal for a company to ask for your home address and telephone number. But if you’re ever prompted to input your Social Insurance Number, turn around and run away as fast as you can.

No online retailer will ever ask for this sensitive information unless they’re looking to take advantage of you.

3. Keep receipts and check for recurring payments

Everything went great, you made your purchase and the item arrived. You’ve checked your balance and they charged the correct amount, you’re off the hook, right?

Well not so fast. Some websites take advantage of patrons by signing them up for recurring payments – unlawfully and unwillingly. Even companies like PayPal aren’t above fraudulent payments.

While this is a very shady tactic, it may not be illegal as it’s in the fine print. If this happens, contact your bank immediately to get the charges reversed.

Speaking of fine print….

4. Read everything before checking out

This may be a bit of a nuisance, but ensuring that you’ve crossed all your T’s and dotted all your I’s will go a long way in keeping your hard earned money safe.

We appreciate that reading the Terms of Agreement on an iTunes purchase, say, may be ridiculous, but at the very least it keeps you in the driver’s seat.

5. Only buy from HTTPS:// websites

When putting in a website’s URL, even if skip the www, which it’s safe to say that probably 90% of us do, there will be either an HTTP or HTTPS placed at the front. Did you know that the “S” placed after stands for security?

That “S” and the lock placed in front is an SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, meaning the page is encrypted. You’ll more than likely receive an advisor to steer clear of a site that doesn’t have it, but just in case it’s always good to know.6

6. Avoid using public computers to purchase

If you ever find yourself at an internet cafe or a location with public computers, keep your information off of those terminals. That means no purchases online, or for that matter, it’s safer to avoid using a hard drive or USB that’s valuable to you.

All it takes is one pesky hacker to leave malware that can steal your data and leave you high and dry.

7. Does the website pass the eye test?

This may not be the best barometer for gauging whether a website is legitimate or not, but it’s still an important step to take. Does the website pass the eye test of being high quality?

Websites that are made specifically to take your money are not built with quality in mind. You could probably spot them from more than a mile away.

Why? Their goal is to create as many websites that have the potential of harming you. It’s quantity over quality.

Using these essential steps can guarantee that the government will be the only one skimming money off the top of your paycheck.

Should We Worry About Another JJMeds Incident?

While what happened to JJMeds was extremely unfortunate, it doesn’t mean you should worry about making purchases online.

Website hacks, while they do happen are far and few between. You’re more likely to hurt yourself in a bouncy castle than to be taken for a cybercrime ride.

That being said, it does happen. But taking the necessary steps as we mentioned above will keep you and your hard earned dollars safe.

Online retail is exploding with no end in sight, and the last thing an E-Commerce shop needs is to lose its customers.

As always, there are some steps you can take as a consumer to make sure that your security is not comprised.

Happy shopping and keep safe!

Hey! I’m the editor of Herb Approach News, and i'll write on just about anything cannabis related. You can find me in British Columbia, exploring off the beaten path hiking trails, relaxing on cozy beaches in the summer or strolling through the city streets!