Unfortunately, the Internet is not a very safe place. Online threats and scams are never too far away. With today’s never-ending barrage of information in cyberspace, it can be difficult to stay on top of the fundamental security procedures that we all need to stick to. Many users fall victim to flashy Anti-virus advertising that promises to offer “Complete Security or Total Protection” while surfing the net, banking, visiting social sites etc. But, no matter how much you spend on some of these “Full-blown, bloated software suites”, that’s not all there is to staying protected.
Below are some of more important steps that users need to act upon in addition to using Anti-virus software, in order to stay safe online:
- Regularly update your operating system and applications – especially Java, Flash, Adobe and Office products.
- Use a modern browser that is up-to-date. Having an up-to-date browser if much more important than the type of browser you use. I personally use Chrome with a few privacy add-ons (DoNotTrack Plus and Ghostery) both are free and highly recommended.
- Use a regulary updated Anti-virus program. I am currently using Vipre running alongside of Malwarebytes PRO, but have used G Data and Kaspersky in the past with no complaints. But, there are plenty of choices out there. Just do some research and see which one will best fit your machines specs and budget.
- Do not use the same password at every site. With all of the different credit card, banking, social networking and various other types of sites which require a membership, it’s hard to remember a bunch of different passwords. This is why I use a handy little program called LastPass. With this program installed, I only have to remember one unique password and it fills in all of the other information automatically. It will even generate long, complex passwords for all of your sites that are almost impossible to crack…I highly recommend it!
- Use a firewall. The importance of using a Firewall on your computer or on your network cannot be stressed enough. Just because you have all the latest security updates, you are still susceptible to unreported, unpatched, or unknown vulnerabilities that a hacker may know about. Sometimes hackers discover new security holes in a software or operating system long before the software company does and many people get hacked before a security patch is released. By using a firewall the majority of these security holes will not be accessible as the firewall will block the attempt.
- Ignore emails that state you won a contest or a stranger asking for assistance with their inheritance. No Nigerian prince is going to give you millions of dollars and you aren’t going to win a bunch of money or prizes for a contest that you never signed up for. Sorry, guess you will still be going to work for the foreseeable future…just like the rest of us!
- Do not open e-mail attachments from people you do not know. Attachments are a common way for infections to spread from computer to computer.
- Ignore web pop ups that state your computer is infected or has a problem. While browsing the web, if you see an advertisement that pretends to be an online anti-virus program, DO NOT CLICK ON IT!!! If you do, it will prompt you to install a piece of software, which then actually infects your machine. If you happen to stumble across one of these while surfing, just close the website or browser completely. Then, just to be safe, run a full scan with your Anti-virus program.Don’t use file sharing programs such as Peer-to-Peer and Bit Torrents. Music and movies are NOT free. If you steal, you deserve to get infected. Then you will end up having to pay an IT expert to clean your machine. Pay now or pay later. It’s up to you.
- When installing a piece of software, read the End User License Agreement (EULA) so you know what you’re getting into. Many free downloads are offered with adware and other programs that you DO NOT want on your computer. Most of the time, in the fine print, there will be little check boxes for additional software (we like to call this type of software “Crapware”). Make sure you are careful to check or uncheck these boxes…whichever opts out of installing the additional software. More often than not, free isn’t really always free. Reading the EULA may help you to spot this type of “software piggybacking” before installing a program.