8 Steps Toward Internet Security

SecurityYou’re browsing through your email and notice an interesting message. The subject line mentions that it’s important, so you click the link to read the email. It simply states that there are attachments to download, so you go ahead and see what’s included. Now your computer is infected with a virus, and you’re kicking yourself for trusting a stranger. If you want to protect yourself from hackers and scammers, you need to follow certain steps – steps you can take to keep from becoming a victim.

  1. Avoid Unknown Sites
    If you do a lot of research on the Internet, you need to be aware of the sites that you’re visiting. Unfortunately, many websites contain malware or viruses that could harm your computer. If you’re unsure about whether the site is safe or not, you should consider using a piece of software like McAfee SiteAdvisor, which can conduct a scan to check for things like spyware.  When a site comes up with a message about allowing popups, be sure to ignore it or say, “No!”  If you take a chance and choose “yes,” be prepared to get hit with hundreds of spammy popups and have your computer lock up!
  2. HTTPS in the URL
    Because so many people now use the Internet for activities like banking, it’s important that your transactions are secure. That’s why any sort of banking site, payment processor, etc. that asks for personal information should have “https” in the URL. This means that the connection is secure and not open to outside interference. If you don’t see “https” in the URL, then don’t submit any sensitive information.
  3. Use Strong Passwords
    It’s very important that you have a somewhat long, complex password to protect yourself from hackers because a short password can be more easily decrypted than a longer password. The more characters that are contained in the password, the more combinations there are that need to be “cracked” by the hacker. Try to make your passwords nine characters or longer to best protect yourself.
  4. Antivirus Software
    This is one of the most common methods used by people to protect themselves and their computer, but it’s still important to know what the benefits really include. Besides protecting your own computer, and any computer in your network, the software can also scan your email to check for viruses and threats. By spending the few extra dollars for antivirus (and updating whenever you see a new security download), you’ll save yourself the hassle and cost of professional repairs— not to mention downtime inconvenience and potential theft of your data and identity!
  5. Using a Firewall
    A firewall provides protection against someone else trying to get access to your computers, or your Internet account so they don’t have to pay for one. You may even use a firewall to block access to various sites on your PC. In a business setting, it allows you to block employees from visiting entertainments sites. At home, a firewall can help you keep your child from viewing an inappropriate site.
  6. Updating Your Operating System
    Although you might be tempted to wait to update your operating system, you may be putting yourself at risk of an attack. Updates are critical to the performance and safety of your computer, and they help to fix parts of the operating system that are susceptible to hackers, so be sure to download them as soon as they become available.
  7. Caution with Email Attachments
    As described in the opening paragraph, email attachments can infect your machine with viruses and cause you a lot of headaches. The number one thing to remember is to never download attachments from anybody that you don’t know. It’s also a good rule of thumb to never click on links in any email (always retype or copy and paste them into a new browser tab) or you could quickly become a victim of identity theft!
  8. Beware of Public Computers
    If you must use a public computer, do so at your own risk. Not only can the person sitting next to you see your personal information, but the next person to use that computer may have access to your usernames and passwords. Make sure to always delete your browsing history, including passwords, after you’re finished.

Basically, remember to treat your passwords and other login information just as you would a credit card in your wallet; the loss or theft of both can get you into hot water very quickly.  It is tempting to have short passwords and use the same throughout your accounts, but just imagine losing 1 credit card that had access to every bank account and store account that you currently use.  Now you’re picturing what the “tip of the iceberg” would look like to you experience identity theft!

Benjamin Petersen is a writer for technology sites and a content contributor for proxy software sites, especially innovators in the proxy field, because he feels Internet security is a prime concern in today’s business world.

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