Basic Online Security Guide

By: Tim Baker

As the rise in popularity and use of the internet increases, the more sophisticated the attacks on the users by those stealing identities, spreading viruses, or simply monitoring the user for monetary gain. It is easy to get a virus and it is easy to have your credit card number stolen, but you can take steps to prevent these things from happening to you. The following is a simple guide that anyone can follow to increase protection from these threats.

1. Keep the operating system updated. Make sure your system is set to update automatically, so that critical services are patched when security flaws are found. Hackers and malware in general take advantage of flaws in system software to infiltrate and install onto the system. Keeping the system up to date is the first step in computer security.

2. Keep all security software updated. Make sure your anti-virus and antispyware solutions are the latest versions and that they are set to download signatures on a regular basis. Malware authors constantly change tactics and use different techniques to avoid being detected. As malware change the solutions also have to change in order to detect them. Keeping your security software updated can increase your chance of detecting a vulnerability.

3. Use a safe web browser and keep it updated. Because of its popularity, Internet Explorer is the most targeted browser for malware authors. The flaws in the browser that allow access to the computer are well known and traded amongst hackers world wide. Switching to another web browser will greatly reduce your chance of getting infected with spyware or a virus.

4. Use caution visiting unpopular sites. Not so well known sites are sometimes embedded with malware designed to infiltrate your system. Don't click on everything at a site that is new to you. Read everything carefully and if anything looks suspicious then leave. The internet is large and there are plenty of places to get the information you seek. It is always a good idea to stick with sites you are familiar with.

5. Use caution clicking on links sent to you. Just because someone emailed you a link doesn't mean you have to click on it. Make sure you know the person who sent the link and that there is a description of the link in the email. Email is one of the most common forms of spreading a virus.

6. Use caution clicking on links in discussion forums. Forums and chat rooms are a wonderful place to make new friends, but these social outlets are magnets for people wanting to do harm. Forums can attract thousands of people a day and hundreds of people can be attacked all at once by just one simple malicious post. Make sure you are familiar with the handle of the person posting a link.

7. Download software from the original vendor. It is quite common for malware authors to bundle their wares with legitimate software and offer it for download on their site. To be safe you can do a search for the company that made the software and download it from that site. It is not only safer but a lot of times you get the latest version of the software.

8. Check links before logging on to do banking related activities. A common technique thieves use to get your credentials is to claim your password needs changed at an online banking service. Look carefully at the link and you will see that it is not the same as the link you usually use to login. These links sometimes start with numbers, or maybe they will just change one letter thinking you will not notice. To be safe, only use the link that your banking service gave you to do any banking or changing of passwords.

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