How to use the Internet securely

The Internet is one of the modern innovations that have brought about outstanding levels of development in every field or area in the world. Bringing connectivity and opportunity to people who otherwise had very limited chances of successfully connecting with each other. Banking has become much easier, shopping is now possible from the comfort of your home, and many other aspects of business, such as interviews, business conferences, secure sending and receiving of critical information, which is transmitted over the Internet every second has become easier than many actually imagined possible. A secure Internet connection is what keeps sensitive information going in the right direction, providing a good sense of online safety and security, as information is sure to get to its intended destination and not any other. Keeping your information in the right places helps you not only to be safe on the Internet, but off the Internet as well!

The Internet is a system of moving information, which has no physical channel through which information travels as is the case with others like the fixed phone or cable line for television. They rely on techniques such as encryption to ensure that only the intended recipient could make sense of the messages which are all broad-casted. Yet, criminals have found ways and are still finding ways to hack into people's private information, steal money, and carry out many other such activities online.

It becomes the user’s responsibility to secure his or herself in every way possible. If your information is private, if you will want to restrict the eyes that see it, and the hands that handle it, we will provide you with some basic computer safety rules which will guide you. You are the one who determines in the end if you will be safe on the Internet.

Keep your operating system and all your software up to date

The first tip on how to be safe online is to keep your operating system software updated. Older systems just by being around longer have given hackers more than enough time to discover loopholes in the system. One of the main reasons for software security updates is because many loopholes have been closed which were found in the old software versions. So generally, using an old system simply puts you at the mercy of hackers who have all the knowledge necessary to break into your system and steal sensitive information. So if you must go online, endeavor to be safe on the Internet first of all by using updated and more secure operating systems.

Update your hardware as well.

While on the issue of updating operating system software, newer and more secure systems are designed and tailored to meet the standards of hardware manufacturers who are constantly pushing forward to supply faster, more efficient machines to their customers. Software manufacturers are also taking the pace, and new software no longer match old hardware. So if you cling on to the old technology, you can only take limited advantage of the new systems. This may not seem like something to classify under computer safety rules, but it really is!

Upgrading hardware may not be the most economic move, but it's worth it if you consider the security risks. Generally, every three to five years, newer technology comes up which warrant a hardware change.

Keep your Antivirus and Internet security applications recent and updated.

Generally, Antivirus and Internet Security vendors release new versions of their software each year, which aside from updates, are designed to deal with threats more efficiently, giving you online safety and security. It is important then to keep updated versions running, every new year, with the latest security programs which do the heavy lifting for you, identifying and removing not only viruses but Trojan horses which are designed to attack your system from within.

End not only at getting new versions but also get all the regular updates and virus definitions which come every few days. Internet security applications go a long way to secure your email, and other online activities, they even identify and warn you away from unsafe websites. Many people working together, build these softwares, you only need to purchase and enjoy the online safety and security that these softwares afford you.

Use difficult to guess passwords, and keep your passwords secure

One of the age-long computer safety rules is to use strong passwords. The entire point of having a password is to restrict access. It doesn't help when your password is easily guessable or exposed in any way to those who might want to have access to your data. Lots of techniques are employed by those who want to gain access into your system. Some try to use a repetitive attack system, where many different passwords are tried one after another by softwares called robots. Some systems even offer help in generating randomized and difficult to guess passwords which will make your system more secure.

Take these steps to ensure that your passwords guarantee you online safety and security:

  • Don't use short passwords, let your passwords be at least 8 digits, preferable above 10. The longer your password is, the more difficult it will be to guess.
  • Use alternating passwords, such as mixing upper and lower cases, numbers and symbols, if they are allowed. It also increases the strength of your password security.
  • Do not repeat the same password over several accounts. Rather, find a way to store your several different passwords which you use for each account.

Password storage

With many passwords to several different systems comes the need to store them in a more organized way so that you can remember every one of them. There's some great applications you could use to store your passwords securely, such that they cannot be retrieved from your phone, or computer, even when the system is already on. Such password storage apps ensure that you could set the craziest and hard to remember passwords on all your Internet accounts, making it extremely difficult for anyone to guess any of your passwords or even for a hacker using something like brute force method to try and break into your account.

Avoid storing your passwords using a text document on your computer or in any cloud storage which is not encrypted or can easily be accessed. Keeping the passwords tucked away in an application that encrypts and secures them with a master password is more preferable.

Avoid giving all your accounts the same password or very similar passwords which make your other accounts easy to attack if one is cracked open. In this way, even if one of your accounts is accessed, you can be sure that the others are safe. When you have chosen the best possible passwords, the only hope is that the cloud system is strong enough to withstand all possible hacks. Some cloud systems have been hacked in the past, but that is very rare and difficult too.

Keep Personal Information Professional and Limited

This is one of the most effective computer safety rules, especially for professionals. Control the way you release personal information on the Internet, especially on social media platforms, where everyone can see. Only release the information that is necessary. The proper use of social media platforms is for networking and for employers who may want to grade you based on what they see on your profile. Posting your relationship and personal information updates for the entire world to see may be dangerous, as hackers are always on the hunt, looking for ways to steal your personal information, and the less information you have out there, the less likely you are to being a victim of identity theft or something similar.

Social media posts usually act as a platform where people could look you up and learn much about you. If you create your passwords using something dear to you, which you constantly post on social media, you know how easy it becomes to hack your accounts. Also limit the way people have access to your account information such as your phone number, email, etc. Such info may lead to you receiving Spam email and make you a target for spam.

To enhance your online safety and security, keep your privacy settings at the highest level. It limits the number of people who have access to seeing the things you like, your habits, your routines, and sometimes even your location can be exposed by the nature of your social media communication. Keeping the privacy settings on ensures that only those you trust have access to your information, posts and shares.

Practice safe browsing.

The Internet, just like the real world has a dangerous neighborhood. Hackers build websites designed to draw you in, and lure you to give your information. The usual victims are those who look for pirated materials, books, movies, pornographic content and other such things on the net. They lure you in, and with just a click of the mouse, you could expose your system to dangerous malware and surrender precious information to criminals.

Computer safety rules you can practice to ensure safe browsing include:

ü  Use Internet security plug-ins to secure your online activities. These Internet security services help block Phishing attacks, maintain a very sensitive firewall and have the advantage of a huge database of dangerous sites, viral signatures and other means of detecting dangerous activities online. So you can be sure you will browse safer with the use of such plug-ins.

ü  Avoid dangerous websites. Understanding how to be safe on the Internet is not hard. Just think of it like walking through a notorious neighborhood. Take the longer route if you can. One of the advantages of using Internet security plug-ins is that they help notify you of known sites which can be trusted, as well as sites known to be infectious or dangerous for your online safety. As a rule of thumb, avoid them as much as possible.

ü  Shop only on trusted websites. It turns out that anyone who enters the details of your credit card online will be given access to use the money in your credit card. Giving your credit card information to a website necessarily means if they are a scam, they could in turn use your credit card online to make purchases and you really would not be able to stop them. So post attention! The fact that a website seems to have good merchandise and actually delivers the products does not make the people behind it noble. Only shop from trusted online vendors who will be sure to keep your credit card details without using them, and who will also protect these details from hackers and the likes of them.

ü  Give out your information only when it is necessary. This goes for some of those websites from which you cannot download a byte without subscribing or surrendering your information, or taking a survey, or one of those kinds of schemes to keep you clicking on their website.

Make Sure Your Internet Connection is Secure

The endpoint of your Internet connection is literally the source of the Internet connection to your phone or any other device you may be using, and this is what determines most of the times if you will be having a secure Internet connection or not. Generally, the individuals or organizations which control these access points can find ways to access every bit of information you send through such a connection, including recording even the keystrokes of your computer. You should therefore be careful when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, or strange connections whose source you are not certain of.

Only do transactions and other information transmitting activities which entail sensitive information on networks which you are absolutely sure are secure. There are other ways to establish a secure Internet connection for your information, such as using VPN connections, yet still, not all available VPN servers are secure as well. So to be sure that you will be safe online, always make your networks secure or only use secured networks to do financial and other sensitive transactions.

Mind what you download.

It turns out, you have administrator privileges on your own computer and you can determine what goes into it, no matter the type of antivirus program. It does not really matter whether you are on a secure Internet connection or not, you can download corrupted data. There's always the possibility that a file is wrongly thought to be a threat, especially executable files. Keeping up with security can be really boring especially when most of the files you want to download seem to be filled with unwanted software. This is usually the case with those very interested in torrents, pirated digital resources such as games, movies, books and other things.

Usually, hackers use such "free" files to bait unwary victims. They may insert a little bit of code somewhere that does something unwanted or unexpected. They may cause another program to be installed, while you're installing the one you want, or they may include codes in the software that would act as back doors, or homing devices, shipping off your data directly to them from within your computer system. Steps you should follow to be safe online with regards to downloading include:

«  Download software using the prescribed method or places put in place by the operating system designers such as the Windows Store for those using Windows, or the App Center for those using Linux systems. These developers go a long way to check every application they allow on the store, so you can be fairly sure that an application coming from such a source should be safe.

«  Keep to reputed software vendors for your software needs. Even if you must download a software out of the protection of the main app center, don't go downloading any software around the net, except you can verify its safety, from reviews, blogs and other reliable sources. In short, if you're not downloading from a reputed source, do a good background check on the applications you plan to buy or download.

«  Beware of zipped folders, which easily slip through security checks by anti-malware applications. Such formats which are generally used to compress and improve the sharing process of files around the net, could also be used to mask dangerous and unnecessary software. So another tip necessary to be safe on the Internet is to keep your downloads few and necessary.

Mind your own business while surfing the Internet.

When surfing the Internet., it's like going into a giant market place. Everyone wants your attention, and some would do anything to get it. So plan your time beforehand, otherwise you may find yourself online for hours on end, just "browsing". There's always another post that looks interesting, and there's always another book that could be a good read. There's always another YouTube video after the one you just watched. If you do not plan ahead, you'll find yourself caught up in a world of entertainment and confusion. Because your attention will always find a new fresh interesting subject. So plan your work, and stick to it.

Another way by which many people are lured into traps by hackers is by using Ponzi schemes, get rich quick scams, lottery scams, the idea of free money has always been attractive to every lazy soul. There's always going to be many people hoping to get something out of you by luring you in with sudden riches. Many people have fallen prey to such scams and even found themselves giving their bank account details and credit card information only to realize when it's too late. So be safe online and keep your mind focused to what took you online.

Cloned websites

Some criminals get domain names very similar and hard to distinguish from the real original websites and clone another well reputed website. They may then trap inattentive Internet users, spreading their links across many platforms. With a click you find yourself in a scam website which looks indistinguishable from the original site, except for the irregularity in the domain name. It may end with .con instead of .com, or end in .net or something similar. They could as well change a letter in the domain name itself, which would be rather difficult to detect if you're not vigilant. Through such means, they can easily scam customers of that website, collecting their information and using it at will. So never drop your guard. If you notice a change in the domain name of a website, be sure to check for any irregularities online. Also, bookmarking websites helps to always go back right to the website and avoid errors.

Every reliable website nowadays has SSL/TLS encryption protection, but it is easy to purchase it and apply it to a website. So seeing an https in front of the domain name does not automatically secure it. Watch carefully for fakes and not just for a secure Internet connection.

Be careful whom you meet online!

Last but not the least, be careful whom you meet online. Many of these data collection sites sell the information of their clients such as email addresses, which scams may use to personally contact you with a story that would quickly suck you in if you listen to it. Beware of people who email you without any prior contact that you know of. Don't give much thought to the matter. Just mark it as Spam and save yourself future troubles.

Your safety on the Internet is not only limited to digital and financial safety. Many people nowadays talk of meeting people online and hitting it off. Many people have met with psychopathic serial killers, dangerous criminals, and met their deaths by scheduling meetings with them. When you want to meet someone you met on Facebook or other social media, be sure to make it in a public place or keep the meetings supervised. You will not have to try to be safe online if you are not alive offline! So just take the precaution.

On a final note, you have the decision in your hands. You are the one who determines the amount of risks you can permit, depending on your situation.

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