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Protect yourself on the Web

Published by in Security · 18 July 2018
Tags: Security
You want your family members and your computer to all be safe whilst using the internet, (also known as 'the net' or 'world wide web').  So if you're ready to become more NetWise, we can start at the root of the problem...YOU!

We'll start with some simple rules, and common sense to remember and use when on the internet.

  1. Never go to a website via links in any emails you receive unless you know who it is from, and trust them!
    1. Many scams and malware tricks involve sending an email that offers a free virus scanner or registry tool and a link to a website that has the information and file to download. When the website opens in your web browser you are directed to a download page which tries to run a silent install of a trojan, or requests you to download a program that installs trojans when it first runs.

    2. These programs behave like what they say they are but often give false readings and results, pretending to scan and find errors or viruses on your system when they are actually infecting your system further with malware and spyware.

  2. Keep the 'preview pane' in your email software closed.
    1. Your email software like 'IncrediMail' or maybe 'Windows Live Mail'  or even 'Mozilla Thunderbird' all these have a preview pane which shows you the email's contents when it is selected in the Inbox. To show you the contents the email must still be opened, and  infection is still possible if you don't have a good paid-for anti-virus program that can also scan emails. Even then, not all virus scanners  detect all the same infections so something could still get through.

    2. The option to switch of the 'Preview pane' is usually in the (View) or (Tools/options) menu of your email software.

  3. Keep two email addresses: 1 for private use, another for everything else!
    1. Your email is part of your internet identity and can be a path to your personal identity if you just randomly give it out. Use a primary email for good friends and family, and for site registrations you trust, like your bank or PayPal account.

    2. All social sites, games sites, chat forums etc should be registered with the second email address. Read the Terms and Conditions of most social sites and you will find terms on what they can really do with your registration details on their records. Third party  advertisers and other sites with related subject content on many accounts are sent those details so they can mail you junk you don't want! IF they are a rouge site GDPR won't matter to them!

  4. Pay close attention to your web browser's address bar when on the internet
    1. Many websites such as banking sites, Amazon or Ebay use secure portals to pass encrypted pages to you and receive information back from you. Cyber criminals build copycat websites that look just like the real thing and use many hidden methods to redirect your browser to these bogus sites. You could be typing in your bank details and handing  them over to criminals at the other end!
      The best way apart from full version internet security software is to pay attention to your web browser's address bar and make sure you are on the genuine banking or shop site. Secure sites always have https:// at the start of the site's address. Also check that the url is the original one by reading it and checking it against a printed version on their stationary or advertisement.
      Don't keep using the drop-down shortcuts in the address bar as they can also be changed or tagged onto by trojan viruses.

    2. Most browsers show a padlock either by the address bar or on the status bar at the bottom of webbrowser. You can click on this padlock icon to see the encryption certificate for that website. The certificate shows the site's cert information like expiry date and level of encryption used.

    3. You could copy the correct url addresses into a text document or sticky note, and leave it open on your desktop so when you surf your websites you can compare them when you're not sure. You will get the idea in time and no longer need the text document.

  5. When building a profile of yourself on social sites be careful what you disclose.
    1. Many people today disclose a huge amount of personal information on social media sites. It is good to be sociable, but by doing this on the internet you leave your self-made internet identity available to many different types of undesirables.
      Thus when you are building your profile on sites that don't allow you to manage profile security you should be very vague and only give minimal information. Yes you could describe your trips and achievements etc but do not give your real full name or address or any school or college you attend or place of work. Your friends will know you anyway, so give yourself a nick-name only. Remember to use that second email address as well!
      Many Web bots are programmed to search through social sites looking for email addresses and even mobile numbers in public posts. Other people's contact details are big money on the internet.  If you want more junk mail ignore this advice...

    2. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are safer when privacy settings are configured correctly but the low level not so corporate media sites probably won't care about GDPR or may be hosted in a country that doesn't enforce it.

  6. Never install free software before researching it on the internet first!
    1. Too good to be true
      Some websites offer a fantastic tool bar for your web browser, or a brilliant PC security scanner and cleaner that fixes everything...except they don’t. Actually they mess everything up.
      There are  hundreds of sites offering software and tools for your PC that are free but actually BOGUS! They do not do the job. A popular bogus application is Antivirus2016  also known as AV2016-17-18ect or Anti-V2016-17-18ect. This program pretends to scan  your PC for malware and viruses and then pretends to find lots of infections.
    2. If you searched Google for info on these nasties before installing them you would avoid a mountain of problems. The same applies for any free stuff or even some paid-for software; always try to get more information on it before you proceed. Google is your friend for this research.

  7. Cover your tracks and keep no internet history for others to scan or read
    1. Your web browser records all your site visits and also collects site url's which is why you can click the arrow on the address bar to see a drop-down list of regular sites. All Windows systems keep history on what you've been doing on your operating system and many viruses read history, and so do hackers if they gain access to your system.

      Websites can leave tracking cookies to collect history. In fact, the Facebook app on your phone listens to your conversations for keywords to use when targeting ads on your Facebook account! Companies want your habits and preference data. Times are changing, and privacy is being dissolved by the internet. Try not to contribute to it for your own sake.

    2. Clear all your web browser's history; just open the browser, press F1 and search for 'clear history' in the Help section.

  8. Never use the internet without a firewall or good internet security software suite to protect you.

    1. No brainer right? But the amount of customers we get that dont have anti virus installed is worrying... So install it and expect that to be enough. However you should at least manually run a full scan once a week or every 10-12 days.

    2. If your anti-virus doesnt come with a firewall then change it, or install a firewall like ZoneAlarm or Glasswire. Commodo also do a very powerful free firewall but its difficult to set up and needs regular attention but offers excellent security.

  9. Stay up to date
    We all have our collections of preferred software we like to use all the time, but we tend to forget that they also have updates that can be related to closing security holes found in them. Microsoft Office software has a lot of security updates, and so do RealPlayer, Java, Adobe Acrobat Reader and Flash Player.
    Many programs require frequent updates so you should check from time to time to see if your most-used software has any updates by checking the authors' websites.

The bottom line is always research anything that you want to buy, or install, or join, and always keep all software and security up to date.

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