World Wide Web has become an important part of our lives. Being a global network, connecting millions of computers, people have incorporated Internet for different purposes such as making business, entertaining, communicating with other people, playing games and many others. And somehow naturally, with all its perks and goodies, there are also many threats and hidden traps while you are surfing online. If you pop the question “Have you ever been infected with a virus or being hacked?” the answer would be “yes” at least 8 out 10 times. And it is not only that – losing some important data, being compromised or someone stealing your identity are also common occurrences nowadays. Computer viruses cannot infect your devices by themselves, they are most often executed or allowed by you without you even realizing. This is why I would like to give you some very basic but very useful tips in order to prevent being infected with malware or being hacked. This small guide is aimed to all of you who haven’t got an idea about Internet security and are too tired of feeling unsafe. The more experienced can also find value, double-checking their methods and pitching in with more useful advice, making our virtual experience a much safer one.
First of all I would like to recommend you to start protecting your computer with an antivirus software. There are many free programs available online which scan your local files and prevent you from being infected with malware (an example being my favorites AVAST), but even the paid ones usually have a nominal annual fee (like NOD32). No matter which one you choose, It is important to periodically update the antivirus software so it will be able to cope with latest viruses.
Another useful suggestion would be to use a firewall protection. It controls the incoming and outgoing network traffic based on applied rule set. A firewall establishes a barrier between the Internet and your computer. It can prevent downloading a malicious file before you even realize how harmful it could be. Many websites initialize downloading files without user’s permission and this way they open their doors wide open for infections in the local system so always be attentive and use only trusted online partners.
Another important part of your web security is regularly updating your web browser because this is your “window” to the global network. The programmers who design browsers are constantly updating them, not only adding new features, improving their performance, changing their looks, but also improving browser security, patching known bugs etc.
Downloading software should only be done from the official website of the company. This guarantees you that there is no attached virus to the application. If you download a file from a non-trusted source it is obligatory to scan it with your antivirus program of choice. You will be alerted if a malicious code is detected and you can act accordingly before it can trigger.
Please be careful when receive e-mails with attached files from unknown sources too. Do not open such files before a scanning is performed. You often cannot distinguish a malware by its type so acting on your own is never recommended. A virus may be attached to a .jpeg or .doc file. The same goes to accepting files from messsengers like Skype by people you do not know.
Another useful tip is not using the same password for all accounts. This is especially important as many people like to use the same logins everywhere so they remember it better. If someone learns your password he will control everything. I realize that it is hard to remember different credentials but there are a lot of applications which keeps your passwords safe.
Be aware of Phishing. This is quite a popular method of stealing usernames, passwords and credit card details. It is achieved by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication usually social web sites, auction sites, banks or online payment processors. It is an example of social engineering techniques used to deceive users. This is the art of manipulating people so they give up confidential information and uses various methodology like phishing phone calls and faked websites. Its the plague of modern times so to speak, and you definitely want to be immune from it.
If you like online shopping make sure buy only from websites which have a trusted SSL Certificate. It allows encrypted connections from a web server to a browser. Typically, SSL is used to secure credit card transactions, data transfer and logins. When a website has a valid SSL Certificate this guarantees the safety of your money and the privacy of your delicate details. Security is knowing who and what to trust, knowing when and when not to, take a person at their word.
Browsing the Internet might not be secured nowadays (or have ever been fully secure for that matter) so instead of sitting and praying not to become a hacker’s victim you can implement some simple precaution habits and cover your bases.