Internet Safety: The Basics

The Internet and World Wide Web contain a vast amount of information upon which businesses and consumers rely every day. Not everything on the Web is beneficial though, and users need to be careful. Here are some easy tips to remember:

Protect Your Computer:

  • Always keep your computer up to date -- this includes Windows or other operating systems, along with software like Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, and your web browser software.
  • Use AntiVirus software- AV software now includes built-in firewalls, spam blockers, and many other features that are crucial for safe web browsing. Free software packages like AVG AntiVirus work very well.
  • Be careful -- most online threats such as Trojans and worms need user interaction to be downloaded. Don't open email attachments if you don't know what it is or where it came from, and be careful clicking 'Accept' or 'OK' on Internet popups and ActiveX warnings unless the source is trusted.
  • Using Windows Vista or Windows XP's Limited User reduces the risk of your computer becoming infected. Microsoft also offers a free software package called SteadyState to ensure your computer cannot be infected.

Good Practices Online:
Be careful opening email which could potentially be a phishing scam. Fake emails from banks, eBay, PayPal, or other sites might ask you to login to fix a problem with your account. Do not login using the linked website.
Keep a separate email account to use for online signups, and keep your personal and business emails private and not posted on the Web. Also, turn off your email client's 'Read Receipt' notification so spammers will not know your account is active.
Use a secure password: at least eight characters long, with a combination of letters and numbers. Really secure passwords should be at least 15 characters and include alphanumeric characters, i.e. @, #, $, etc.
Parental control software helps ensure that children can't view any inappropriate materials on the Web.

Shop Smartly Using:

  • Large, well-established online stores
  • Online versions of large retail chains
  • Sites with PayPal, BidPay, or other credible payment sites

Dedicate a Low-Limit Credit Card
Designating a single credit card with a low limit for using online reduces the amount of loss possible if something were too happen.

Public Use
When using a public computer or wireless hotspot:

  • Read any posted policies regarding access rights and permissions;
  • No illegal downloading or inappropriate website viewing;
  • Do not use portable drives with sensitive information;
  • Clean browser caches, temporary files, and recycling bin files, before and after use;
  • Wait until you get home to do any online banking or other important transactions;
  • Watch for shoulder-surfers watching behind your back when you're using sensitive information.

When it comes to using the Web, nothing is more important than being an informed user. If there are any questions or concerns regarding any of the above information, please read through our other articles for more information or check our information against other security resources.

About the Author

Thomas Donchez

Thomas Donchez

Contributing Writer

Thomas Donchez is a graduate of East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Security and Computer Science. Tom is currently working toward his Masters Degree in Computer Science and resides near Allentown, PA.

With a strong background in computer security and great interest in current trends, Tom enjoys writing on security related topics. His recent research includes rootkit detection and advanced steganography methods, and his thesis work relates to network traffic analysis and reporting. Tom also spent three years as an ASP.NET web developer.

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