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Personal privacy hole is a real concern

Mon, Dec 26, 2005

Health & Sports | Author:

www.onlinepharmacy.com.au

Introduction

OnlinePharmacy.com.au is a web store selling various prescription drugs and medications. Headquartered in Australia, the company sells over-the-counter products all over the world. Citing legal restrictions, they do not offer RX medications outside of their home country of Australia.

My visit to this site began rather uneventfully, although there were a few things along the way that raised some big red flags in my mind.

Form

The site design is a bit plain, and not very tidy. Nothing jumped out as absolutely atrocious during my first visit, yet nothing seemed impressive in any way either.

The company’s name is the same as their Internet domain name, and they display it promptly and often – the name is in the header located at the top left of every page. Of course, their logo (or lack thereof) is really nothing to speak of. It just doesn’t stand out, and the colors don’t quite match up between the logo’s background and the site’s background around the logo, giving it an odd sort of “boxed” look. Also, the site’s width and top margin jump around a lot from page to page, and are especially noticeable at higher resolutions using a large browser window.

The font type is mostly the same throughout the website, however they use bold and italic text in various places for no apparent reason. They change font sizes all over the place, and even throw in a few different colors – all on the same page – which just makes everything appear jumbled and busy.

The checkout pages don’t really look anything like the rest of the site, and the shopping cart is obviously some kind of add-in that maintains its own look and feel separate from everything else. Consistent, this site is not.

Overall, the image of OnlinePharmacy.com.au was sloppy, and my visit there was just plain boring – at least in the beginning. Upon further examination, I was able to identify a number of things that eventually did catch my attention; some good and some not-so-good. In fact, one particular point definitely made things interesting, and the thought of becoming a victim was rather frightening…

Function

A large personal privacy hole exists in the checkout functionality of this website. While credit card purchasing appears secure, the personal information side of things is definitely weak in the security (if you can even call it that) department. When it comes to keeping personal information safe, this site truly misses the mark.

After having selected some items for purchase and entering the check-out process, there is a page where you enter your personal information. (Not credit cards at this point; rather your name, street address, phone number, etc.) This is where the big problems exist. Instead of maintaining a “traditional” account with a username and password, this site simply allows you to recall a profile by entering an email address and a last name. That’s it? You only need an email address and last name to pull up a whole personal profile? Yep. Scary, isn’t it? That’s insecurity at its finest, and just a plain-old bad idea.

There are a ton of products available for purchase, and a lot of medical information put into layman’s terms on this site. The site is fairly easy to navigate, and they have a very comprehensive F.A.Q. to help you get started. Oh, and at least the credit card area is secure using SLL/128bit encryption. Of course, you must ask yourself, “Would you trust a company with your financial information that is so irresponsible with your personal information?”

Conclusion

OnlinePharmacy.com.au has a good idea and a ton of products at a great price. However, they desperately need the assistance of an Internet security specialist and a professional web designer. This web business has potential, but I just can’t get over that security hole and how sloppy their presentation is. If their electronic store is this “dirty” and they are this careless with other peoples’ information, what does that say about the quality of their products and services? Remember, they’re in the medical/pharmaceutical field, where cleanliness, quality and privacy are supposed to be priority #1. Ouch.

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