The internet has revolutionised the way we live our lives – enabling us to read the news, enjoy entertainment, carry out research, book our holidays, buy and sell, shop, network, learn, bank and carry out many other everyday tasks.
However, there are a number of risks associated with going online. These result from either visiting malicious websites or inadvertent disclosure of personal information.
- Always be vigilant when supplying personal or financial details.
- Ensure your browser is up to date.
The risks of visiting malicious, criminal or inappropriate websites include:
- Viruses and spyware (collectively known as malware).
- Phishing, designed to obtain your personal and/or financial information and possibly steal your identity.
- Fraud, from fake shopping, banking, charity, dating, social networking, gaming, gambling and other websites.
- Copyright infringement – copying or downloading copyright protected software, videos, music, photos or documents.
- Exposure to unexpected inappropriate content.
Use the Internet Safely
It is very easy to clone a real website and does not take a skilled developer long to produce a very professional-looking, but malicious site.
Being wary of malicious, criminal or inappropriate websites:
- Use your instincts and common sense.
- Check for presence of an address, phone number and/or email contact – often indications that the website is genuine. If in doubt, send an email or call to establish authenticity.
- Check that the website’s address seems to be genuine by looking for misspellings, extra words, characters or numbers or a completely different name from that you would expect the business to have.
- Roll your mouse pointer over a link to reveal its true destination, displayed in the bottom left corner of your browser. Beware if this is different from what is displayed in the text of the link from either another website or an email.
- If there is NO padlock in the browser window or ‘https://’ at the beginning of the web address to signify that it is using a secure link, do not enter personal information on the site.
- Websites which request more personal information than you would normally expect to give, such as user name, password or other security details IN FULL, are probably malicious.
- Avoid ‘pharming’ by checking the address in your browser’s address bar after you arrive at a website to make sure it matches the address you typed. This will avoid ending up at a fake site even though you entered the address for the authentic one – for example ‘eebay’ instead of ‘ebay.
- Always get professional advice before making investment decisions. Sites that hype investments for fast or high return – whether in shares or alleged rarities like old wine, whisky or property – are often fraudulent.
- Be wary of websites which promote schemes that involve the recruitment of others, receiving money for other people or advance payments.
- If you are suspicious of a website, carry out a web search to see if you can find out whether or not it is fraudulent.
- Be wary of websites that are advertised in unsolicited emails from strangers.
Before entering private information such as passwords or credit card details on a website, you can ensure that the link is secure in two ways:
- There should be a padlock symbol in the browser window frame, that appears when you attempt to log in or register. Be sure that the padlock is not on the page itself … this will probably indicate a fraudulent site.
- The web address should begin with ‘https://’. The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’.
The above indicate that the website owners have a digital certificate that has been issued by a trusted third party, such as VeriSign or Thawte, which indicates that the information transmitted online from that website has been encrypted and protected from being intercepted and stolen by third parties.
When using websites that you do not know, look for an Extended Validation (or EV-SSL) certificate, which indicates that the issuing authority has conducted thorough checks into the website owner. The type of certificate held can be determined by clicking the padlock symbol in the browser frame which will launch a pop-up containing the details.
Safe Use of Browsers
The most common internet browsers enable you to manage your settings such as allowing and blocking selected websites, blocking pop ups and browsing in private. Respective browsers will tell you to do this in slightly different ways, so we recommend that you visit the security and privacy section of their websites, or the help area of the browsers themselves:
Some browsers also have the ability to identify fraudulent websites by default.
Always ensure that you are running the latest version of your chosen browser that your operating system will support (if you are running window XP, i would strongly suggest you upgrade your OS or install Google Chrome, as Internet Explorer 8 is no longer supported), be sure to download and install the latest updates.
It is important to remember that turning on the private browsing setting or deleting your browsing history will only prevent other people using your computer from seeing which sites you have visited. Your internet service provider, search engine, law enforcement agencies and possibly (if browsing at work) your employer, will still be able to see which sites you have visited or keywords you have searched for.
Always remember to log out of a secure website when you have completed your transaction, and before you close the browser. Closing the browser does not necessarily log you out.
Ensure you have effective and updated antivirus/anti spyware software and firewall running before you go online.
If you need help with any of the above, contact Above IT 07970511955