The Internet has been called the “new frontier” and in many ways, it is. This “information superhighway” has caused concerns with personal privacy, and connected computer systems around the world (resulting in additional security measures), have provided hackers an opportunity to prey on innocent victims everywhere.
Here are a few of our tips to protect yourself and your computer while surfing the web.
- Don’t use Bittorrent or Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Sharing Software to illegally download music, movies, software, etc.
To begin with, using Bittorrent, or P2P Sharing software to download something which is pirated or illegal is…well illegal. But it has become so popular that you can’t resist right? Hackers noticed this as well, which is why these “systems” tend to not only be clogged with your favorite tunes, but also full of viruses, trojans and malware. Almost every infected computer I see is running some form of P2P Sharing software. Don’t believe me? Back in 2004, Wired Magazine reported that it was estimated that forty-five percent of the executable files shared on Kazaa contained some sort of malicious code! You can read that article here.
-Keep your computer’s software updated.
This includes your operating system (Windows/Mac/Linux/etc) and any web-based applications, such as web browsers, email clients and web browser plugins (Flash, Java, etc.). It might just be easier to set your computer to automatically update daily to ensure that you are always protected. If a vulnerability is discovered, it is usually a good idea to ensure that your computer has been patched for that vulnerability.
-Be cautious about logging into public computers.
When you login to a public computer (such as in the library, at work or in the college computer lab) be sure to check that the “Remember Me” checkbox is not checked. When you are done make sure that you fully log-off all your accounts; Wait until you see the message that states that you have successfully logged off instead of leaving the computer the instant you click the logoff button. Never let the public computer save your passwords and consider using the web browser’s private browsing mode or delete the web browser’s history when you are done.
-Be careful who you give your email address to.
Almost everyone asks for your email address: At the doctor’s office to the supermarket to signing up for an online service. And then you receive spam message after spam message. Here is a thought: Create two email accounts: One for personal use (which you provide only to close family and friends) and another for handing out to websites when you complete their registration form or purchase a product online. You will notice your second email becomes stuffed with spam while your personal email is clutter free.
-Be knowledgeable about phishing and scams.
If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. A family member who you have never heard of did not die and leave you millions of dollars and you did not win a PS3 just for visiting a website. Your bank or financial institution will never contact you via email and Paypal will not ask you to provide a “third party partner” your personal information and Paypal login details. If you are unsure of whether something is a scam or not, contact the appropriate institution or run a simple Google search.