You may just be sitting on your computer table in the comfort of your own home, but you and your computer can be in danger. Although the Internet is a very useful tool that provides every bit of information on the tip of your hands, the web also has its dark side filled with viruses, malwares, hackers, adult content and malicious people who are looking for a chance to steal your personal information. Fortunately, you can practice several online safety techniques to avoid getting face-to-face with Internet’s dark side. This article discusses the online basic practices you should know:
How to Keep Your Passwords Safe
Many websites you register with require a password to join. Imagine creating over 100 accounts on 100 different websites and you’ll have numerous passwords to memorize. Some of these passwords are extremely important, such as passwords for an online bank account, PayPal, e-mails or social networking websites. Some accounts are not that important, but since account creation on most websites require you to provide personal information, anyone who could hack one of your 100 accounts can obtain your sensitive data and use it for spam, identity theft or other malicious activities that could damage your reputation or finances.
The most basic rule in creating passwords is never to use the same password on everything. While it is the easiest way to remember your passwords, using just one password makes you an easy target of hackers. If one of yours accounts is hacked, every account you have in various websites can also be hacked. Always create strong passwords, which include special characters or numbers that are harder to crack. Avoid using common words like “god,” “password,” “iloveyou” or “123456,” among others. Do a quick research about the “common passwords” and avoid using them at all costs.
To use creative passwords that won’t confuse you, make use of a system that only you know. Choose a base password (such as “DeniSE162”) and add all vowels of a website. If you’re creating a password for Facebook, the use the password “DeniSE162aeoo.” The system you use depend entirely on what you prefer and could remember easily. When using this technique, take into account that some websites may require you to include special characters, while some don’t allow them.
Another option is to use a password manager tool such as LastPass that would organize and secure all your passwords in one place. LastPass is a popular tool because it analyzes your created passwords and help you create passwords if the ones you chose are deemed “hackable.”
Cookies Overview: Benefits, Disadvantages and Working with Cookies
An internet cookie is a piece of text stored by your web browser on your computer. Cookies are also known as browser cookie, web cookie, HTTP cookie or simply “cookie.” These cookies were introduced to enhance the way an online shopper uses the shopping cart, since cookies gives a website a way to remember the last products you visited. They are also used in making a user’s web experience more “personalized” because having cookies enabled in your browser makes web browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Netscape or Internet Explorer remember all the websites you’ve visited and automatically completes the website address as you type on the address bar.
Some people find accepting cookies unsafe. This can be true, particularly if you enable cookies for passwords. However, cookies also provide several disadvantages. If you accept large amounts of cookies that are stored on your computer, it would slow down your system’s performance. Users also lose privacy when accepting cookies because websites can track the way you browse and the products you’re interested in.
The good thing about internet cookies is that you have an option to accept or deny cookies by simply changing the privacy settings on your web browser. You can also enable cookies, but delete them regularly. Although web browsers have different interfaces, they all have a “Preferences” or “Options” menu that include a “Privacy” tab. Click this tab and uncheck the option to accept cookies.
Spyware: How to Prevent them from Spying on You
Spyware, as its name suggest, is a type of computer program that spies on your internet usage, collect information without your knowledge and report these information to the program’s author. Unlike cookies that you can enable and disable, most spyware software applications are hidden in programs that you might have downloaded online.
According to FaceTime Communications, spyware infects an estimate 80% of all computers worldwide. Although a spyware is not a computer virus, it can be extremely damaging to your computer. While a spyware will not crash your system, it works in the background and changes your user experience. Thousands of spyware exist with different missions – some are created to record user web history, while others record your passwords and keystrokes. Most computers infected with spyware result in changed settings, low connection speeds and other loss of computer functions.
The only proven way to remove spyware is to install anti-spyware or spyware blocker software. These programs, which are available in both free and paid versions, can be assigned to run daily, weekly or monthly. Some require you to click a button to remove all spyware detected in your system, but all these programs work to keep your private information safe and your computer running effectively.
Firewalls: The Walls that Keep Enemies Out of Your PC
A firewall works similarly like a wall because it keeps a barrier between your computer/network and the Internet, preventing computer worms, viruses and other malicious software you may encounter or accidentally download to spread through your system. Firewalls analyze the traffic sent between two networks (for example, the Internet and your home network) and determine if the data looks legitimate to pass through, or to prevent from passing.
Two types of firewall exist – the software firewall and hardware firewall. Software firewalls are usually preferred in the home environment since they provide basic protection your PC needs. Some of the big names in security protection such as MacAfee and Norton provide firewall software programs. Hardware firewalls, on the other hand, are common in businesses. These types of firewalls have a pair of dedicated units, which are used for the trusted network on one side and the ‘outside world’ on the other.
The downside of using a firewall is that it can eat up system resources on your computer and slow down traffic coming in and out of your network. In addition, while a firewall is a very useful tool in monitoring and stopping dangerous traffic to go to your system, it cannot prevent security threats and remove viruses or malware on your network or computer. This is the main reason why firewalls are always accompanied by an effective anti-virus program.
Keeping Identity Safe Online
An estimate of 10 million Americans fall victims to identity theft each year, costing them around $1.8 billion annually. Identity theft is considered the fastest growing crime in the U.S. and the numbers are increasing at an alarming rate. With the internet providing an easy way for malicious people to steal information and identity, you need to follow these FIVE security measures to keep your identity safe online.
1. Personal Information You share Online – Some personal information are required when you shop online or create accounts on various websites. While this won’t necessarily be enough for someone to steal your identity, revealing to many information about yourself can be quite dangerous. Your full name, address and phone number are the common details asked on websites and they are considered low sensitivity information. When you include your date of birth, birthplace and mother’s name and make them available publicly online, your chance of becoming a victim to identity theft increases. However, if you post all these details along with your bank account or credit card number, Social Security Number, and PIN/password, you put yourself at high risk of falling victim to identity theft.
2. Be Wary of Websites you Visit – To avoid identity theft, you need to learn where malicious people steal information. Online shopping websites can easily capture your personal information, so make sure that the website is a trustworthy business. Check if the site has a security lock and includes an “s” on the URL (“https”). You can also double-click this lock to read the website’s security certificate.
3. Be Aware of the Links you Click – Whether you’re checking your e-mail or browsing the web, online criminals would attempt to acquire your personal information by luring you to a site that looks legitimate, but is actually a fake website and serves as a way for criminals to access your information. This process is called phishing and can be found in e-mails, social networking websites, and everywhere else online.
4. Use security Tools – As described above, a personal firewall, anti-spyware programs, password managers, disabling cookies and using anti-virus software can help your network and computer safe from people trying to steal your information. As long as you keep these programs updated, using security tools reduce the chances of computer hacking, online fraud and identity theft.
5. Educate Yourself about Online Fraud and Scams – The best way to prevent people from stealing your identity is to learn about how they work. Scams never run out as online criminals find more ways to rip-off people. Most types of online fraud trick you into giving sensitive information to an unsolicited caller, fake e-mail support person and other fake service providers. Arming yourself with details about the newest scams and types of fraud committed online helps you identify these practices and avoid scammers completely.