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From all appearances, the Internet seems harmless with its vast store of information that is accessible by anyone. This fact alone makes the Internet a perfect target for criminals. Criminals with the mindset to steal your money or your identity exploit the fact that the Internet does indeed seem innocent and friendly. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. While it is true the Internet is a huge benefit to mankind, it is not a friendly place if you let your guard down.
Anyone surfing the Internet regularly experiences the deluge of ads with an invitation to “click here” for an amazing deal or solution to a nagging problem. Unfortunately, some of these ads are like villains hiding behind a veil of secrecy just waiting for you to take the bait. In this case the bait is the ad, and the hook is the “click”. Once clicked, it’s entirely possible the ad was already infected with malware, or malicious software and is working its way through your computer and starting its vicious attack. Damage malware can do ranges from stealing passwords, infecting files, and even infecting other computers on a network. The best protection from malware requires due diligence by not arbitrarily opening links or clicking on ads, especially those contained within a pop-up window. To completely shield yourself from infected ads or pop-up windows, note the name of the advertiser and search for that name independent of the web page you are currently on. A much simpler and effective approach is to make sure your browser supports pop-up blocking (most do) and install an ad blocker browser plugin or extension. These are free and very useful.
Millions of computer users place all of their faith in protecting their computers from malware by installing antivirus and firewall software programs. It’s true these programs do a very good job of protecting against malware and viruses, but they cannot stop everything. Do not let yourself become complacent about the dangers lurking only a click away. Completely trusting software programs to remove any worries about viruses or malware is a mistake that can cost you much frustration, not to mention a total loss of productivity, and of course, money. Always be vigilant when surfing the Internet or using your computer.
A favorite among virus writers is luring unsuspecting users into downloading free software that is infected with malware. Typically, free software will masquerade as a solution to a problem that entices the user to download the software. Millions of users fall prey to this trick on a regular basis and some don’t realize their computer is infected. If a quality antivirus program is installed and working it’s likely the infection won’t happen. However, there are no guarantees of this. Instead, refrain completely from downloading free software unless you are sure the source is legitimate.
Virus writers are becoming much better at their craft and in doing so create havoc on millions of computers from PCs to Macs to smartphones. Drive-by downloads occur when a user lands on a web page that is already infected thereby instantly infecting the computer. Once again, a quality antivirus program should in most cases prevent this from occurring, but only if it is kept up-to-date at all times. Incidentally, many antivirus programs have a malware feature in the form of a toolbar that will scan every web page and search results pages for malicious sites. However, don’t be fooled into believing that the program is flawless. None of the antivirus programs and firewalls provides full protection at all times. Depending on the complexity and level of sophistication of the malware, even the best antivirus scanning engines and virus signature databases can be fooled.
Most browsers today offer the option to surf “in cognito” by opening a separate browser window. The new window allows surfing as usual but won’t record your history, nor will it allow any of your personal information to be stored on the sites you visit. This is a very handy and secure method of surfing the Internet. Some of uses of private browsing include banking, searching for medical information and any other situation where your personal information is required. When the browser window is closed, all of the information entered is deleted as if the browsing session never happened.
One of the oldest and most damaging types of infections still haunt millions of people everyday. What is it? It is the most common method of communication on the Internet. Infected links within email carry the distinct possibility of invading a computer rapidly with a virus, and even replicating itself only to infect again and again. Avoid this possibility by never clicking on links within an email unless you were expecting it and you are sure you can trust the sender.
Chatting with friends online is certainly acceptable and most of the time completely harmless. However, in the event a stranger enters the conversation never give any personal information whatsoever to this person and never accept an invitation to meet. Just as important, never click on a link that is presented within the chat room. These links are notorious for infecting computers with a variety of issues from viruses to spyware.
Using strong passwords for every login is absolutely essential as a first line of defense from hackers and other unsavory individuals. Using parts of your name or address as a password is inviting problems. Instead, use a password manager that can generate passwords and remember them for you. The days of 6 character passwords containing only letters are long gone. The password generator will provide passwords up to 128 characters in some cases, and will use symbols, numbers, and letters. Most hackers will pass on trying to break a long and difficult password and will instead look for easier targets.
This is a term that many do not understand. Encryption provides another layer of protection by making computer data files unreadable by anyone unless a special password key is entered first. Without the key or if too many attempts at entering the key are made, the data is deleted. Most modern browsers and operating systems provide this function and is an important feature that should be enabled. Complacency with Internet security eventually spells trouble. Much too often computer users are lulled into believing that since their computer is protected with an antivirus program and firewall nothing will happen. Learning and understanding the 10 Internet safety tips will provide users with crucial information to keep their computers and their personal information private. Make Internet safety a habit by practicing and implementing the tips provided here so your Internet experience is as enjoyable, informative and productive as possible.