5 Tips to Stay Safe on Internet

As the Internet becomes an increasingly integral part of daily life, questions about privacy and security on the Internet are on the rise. Keeping your personal information, private data and finances safe can be difficult, but by following a few tips, you can avoid the vast majority of scams, spyware and privacy breaches.

Tip 1. Be Aware

The best tool to avoid spyware and stay safe on the Internet is your own brain. Free software with no potential upgrades or strings attached, websites that are covered in flashy ads, and free Wi-Fi in an unexpected place are all signs that something may be wrong, and ignoring that intuition can get you in trouble. By staying aware of what you are doing, and thinking about your security while you live your online life, you stand a better chance of avoiding potentially dangerous situations.

internet safetyTip 2: Check for website safety

The Internet can be dangerous because so many websites require your personal information to either log in to your account or to complete a transaction. Hackers, thieves and spyware programmers realize this and often try to intercept your information during these transactions, so make sure you are always dealing with secure websites and companies. First, only provide your information to reputable businesses, then ensure that the company’s website uses a Web address that starts with “https” and has a padlock symbol either in the address bar or at the bottom of the browser. This means that the site encrypts your information, making the data nearly useless to any thieves or hackers who may intercept the transmission.

Tip 3: Choose strong and varied passwords

For most people, a password is the strongest protection to ward off hackers and thieves, and yet so many choose passwords that are barely worth the time it takes to enter them. When creating a password, always use a mix of letters and numbers, and include a symbol if the website allows it. While more difficult to remember, this will make your password almost impossible to guess.

More importantly, you have to use different passwords for different websites. Think about how often you use the same username and password for many online accounts. Hackers specifically target low-security sites to gain access to large lists of usernames and corresponding passwords, knowing that many people use the same combination of credentials for things like online banking.

Additionally, take advantage of any two-factor authentication offered by these sites. This requires not only a password to log in, but a code that’s sent to a dedicated device or to your smartphone as an SMS message. This makes it very difficult for a third party to hack into your account.

Tip 4: What is spyware? How do I stop it?

Spyware probably poses the biggest threat to privacy and security on the Internet, yet so few people really know what it is or how it works. Put simply, spyware is any piece of software that records your actions or information without your knowledge. Some spyware is fairly benign, tracking browsing history and keeping the data it receives anonymous, while other spyware is specifically designed to get your online banking credentials so thieves can clean out your accounts.

Because it’s almost impossible to avoid spyware on your own, having anti-spware and antivirus programs running on your computer is a must. These programs will automatically scan any piece of incoming software for malicious signatures and block the installation if the program looks suspect. They’ll also scan existing files and monitor Internet traffic to ensure that spyware isn’t hiding somewhere on the machine and sending your information to some hacker’s terminal.

There are free anti-spyware programs out there, but you have to be careful when trying to save a buck or two — quite a few of these programs are really Trojan horses in disguise, looking to infect your machine instead of protect it. Instead, your best option is to go with an industry leader. These companies have no interest in scamming you, and are big enough to ensure that their databases are constantly updated as new threats emerge. The best options also offer a free trial, so you can see the anti-spyware program in action before paying some of your hard-earned cash.

Tip 5: It’s not all about spyware and scams

With all this talk about spyware, hackers and Internet security, it’s important to remember that most people with privacy issues on the Internet put themselves in that position. Think about social networking sites and just how much personal information you have posted there. If someone were trying to steal your identity and needed your father’s middle name or where you went to elementary school — two commonly used security questions — you need to think about how a thief could locate those facts. If you’re concerned about Internet privacy, you have to consider staying away from social networking sites, minimizing the information you put out there, or maximizing privacy settings on these sites.

Complete privacy and security on the Internet is a tough goal to reach, these tips will help you go a long way toward keeping yourself safe. Millions of people use the Internet, and thieves will inevitably go for easy targets. People who give even the smallest amount of thought to security and privacy, and take steps in that regard, will find themselves passed over as thieves search out greener pastures.

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Protect Yourself Online – Internet Safety Tips

Protect Yourself Online - Internet Safety TipsInternet threats continue to pose a problem for anyone that surfs the Internet — and yes, that includes you reading the headline and thinking you know it all. In this article we will show you how to protect yourself using some “best practices” for safely surfing the Internet, all without spending a dime.

Background on Internet Threats

Anyone can throw around terms such as “spyware” and “viruses”, but what exactly are they? It helps to know before trying to figure out how best to avoid such problems. Here are the basics:

  • Malware: Short for “malicious software”. Resides and runs on a user’s computer without their consent or knowledge. Malware can be used as an all-inclusive term for viruses, spyware, keyloggers, worms, and Trojan horses, and other Internet threats.
  • Spyware: A type of malware that collects information about users, including personal information and habits (sites they visited). It can also trigger popups and install additional malware.
  • Virus: A type of malware that can replicate itself and infect other computers through a network or media (such as a flash drive). Viruses can do multiple harmful things to a user’s computer, such as taking it over and using it for malicious purposes.

Three Steps to Internet Safety

This guide will take you through three relatively simple steps to protect yourself on the Internet:

  1. Install Mozilla Firefox
  2. Install the McAfee Site Advisor tool
  3. Change your online habits

Step One: Install Mozilla Firefox

Yes, “Install Mozilla Firefox” may be clich; however, there is sound reasoning why this is a good piece of software. Let’s cut the marketing nonsense — here are the tangible things I like about Firefox:

  • Pop-up blocker: Pop-ups are perhaps the most annoying form of advertising, and Firefox takes care of them for you. It will let you know a pop-up was blocked in case you were expecting one.
  • Unsafe site warnings: If you go to a website that is fraudulent, untrusted, or has known security problems, Firefox will actually prevent the site from loading.
  • Integration with anti-virus software: Firefox works with your resident anti-virus program to scan downloaded files for security threats.
  • Automatic updates: Firefox automatically updates itself, so your defenses stay current.
  • Private browsing: Firefox normally remembers what websites you visited, however in private browsing mode (which is easy to toggle on and off), it will not remember anything you did. This feature is handy when logging into banking sites that you want to leave no trace of on your computer (or someone else’s). Private Browsing can be activated from the tools menu and clicking “Start Private Browsing”; do the same to turn it off:

Without further delay, follow this link to Mozilla’s official website and download Firefox for your computer.

Firefox is a small 8MB download. Click Download and thensave the file to your computer to a location you know (such as My Documents). Double-click the downloaded file and install Firefox with the default settings. Done? Great! Those familiar with Internet Explorer should be able to adapt to Firefox without much trouble — it gets natural after a day.

Step Two: Install the McAfee Site Advisor Tool


Certain websites are created with malicious intent; for example, some might try to infect your computer with malware and others might be fake phishing sites designed to steal your personal information. McAfee, a computer security company, has a Site Advisor tool that displays ratings next to links in search engines (such as Google and Yahoo), indicating whether or not the listed sites are safe (see here for thorough information on how it works). Site Advisor works with both Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer. Simply download and then install McAfee Site Advisor using the default settings (leave everything as-is, though I recommend unchecking the option to install the unnecessary Yahoo toolbar).

Once installed, restart Firefox and test Site Advisor out. Make sure your default search provider is set to McAfee first — in the top right next to the search box, click the down arrow and select McAfee Secure Search:

Now search for something and check out the results page — each link has a little icon next to it that indicates whether the site is safe or not.

Green means good, yellow is caution, and red means unsafe/untrusted. A question mark indicates the site has not been scanned yet. As a rule of thumb, only click on the green links.

Below is an example of what search results look like after installing the Site Advisor tool:

And yes, NotebookReview.com is totally safe — but you knew that.

The Site Advisor tool is great to have when you are searching for things you do not usually search for (and thus might be unfamiliar with sites that come up). It never hurts to double-check. As always, use your judgment when clicking on links. If something is too good to be true, it is.

Step Three: Change Your Online HabitsProtect Yourself Online - Internet Safety Tips 2

The single greatest danger you face on the Internet is yourself. More specifically, there is no software that can compensate for your poor Internet safety habits.

Let’s start with how much critical information you willingly give away. This is the Internet — information posted online can be seen by almost anyone, and secure websites can be hacked. Even restricted pages such as your Facebook profile are not entirely safe — someone with access (such as your “friends”) could copy and paste the information to a Web page that isn’t truly private. The bottom line here is that you need to be extra careful with yourself on the Internet. Below are a few of the habits I see daily that present huge security risks to the users:

? Connecting to unsecured wireless networks: You know that coffee shop down the street that offers free Wi-Fi? That free Wi-Fi access could cost you a lot if it is unsecured (Windows will indicate whether a network is secured/unsecured when you try to connect). An unsecured connection is an open network that allows anyone to connect — information passed from your laptop to the wireless router and vice versa can be intercepted by people with the right tools since it is not encrypted. Additionally, network attacks can be made from other computers connected to the network.
Internet Safety Habit: Avoid unsecured Wi-Fi

? Accessing secure websites in public: Even on a secured network, remember that people can see what you type on your laptop screen. All it takes is one person to walk by with a camera phone and snap a picture of your online banking page. The same is true at your office, where all it takes is one nosy coworker poking over a cubicle wall or an unscrupulous network administrator spying on your workstation to snag your passwords.
Internet Safety Habit: Access secure websites only at home

? Saving personal information on shopping websites: Most shopping sites offer to save your credit card and address information for easier checkout in the future. While this is convenient for the few sites you shop at regularly, please do not opt to save info on every site you shop. Though the information is supposedly secured, successful hacking attempts have occurred in the past and personal data has been stolen. Also, there are too many stories of personal information getting “lost”.
Internet Safety Habit: Don’t save credit card numbers on shopping sites

? Posting personal information on social networking sites: I find it amusing that people post the details of their personal lives on social networking sites such as Facebook, give a platoon of their “friends” access, and then complain about privacy issues. Am I the only one that can see the issue here?
Internet Safety Habit: Only post information online you want everyone to see

? Keep your computer personal: Internet browsers such as Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox make it easy to store password and form information (such as names and addresses used in order forms). Anyone that opens the web browser on your computer can check your browsing history, visit your “secure” sites (like your Web-based email) and automatically log in as you because you opted to have the browser save your password. Avoid storing passwords, or better yet, password-protect your computer and lock it when not in use (press the Windows key and L to lock your computer). Make a second account on your computer for other people to use so your information is kept separate, and make sure that account is password-protected and not an administrator.
Internet Safety Habit: Never save passwords on any computer that you share

? Do not install software you do not explicitly want: Many software vendors try to sneak additional pieces of software on your system during the install process. For example, toolbars for your Internet browser, updater tools, and other unnecessary (and annoying) items. If you wanted those pieces of software, you would have installed them on your own.
Internet Safety Habit: Install as little software as possible