Internet safety involves more than just purchasing a good antivirus or anti-malware program and without certain updates and precautions even a secure system can be exploited. Follow these easy tips to keep your Internet secure:
- Updates: Updates do not just apply to your antivirus programs. Make sure your browser and any other software you use (Adobe Flash, for example) are up-to-date to patch any potential security vulnerabilities.
- Passwords: Creating a strong password involves more than adding a few numbers to a basic word or phrase. There are a number of good articles concerning methods of password attack and password generation available online. Take some time to read a few and then review your passwords. To build on the method mentioned on the above Microsoft link select a phrase that you associate with each website or account that you need to password protect. It should be a phrase that is not easily guessed through knowledge of your personality, occupation, or family history and should be unique to that site only (do not use the same password or phrase for multiple sites.) For example, if the day you signed up for your Gmail account the wind was so strong it tore a few shingles from your roof, you might choose the phrase “Itsawonderfuldayforkiteflying.” From there, alter your phrase by developing a system of misspelling certain words, adding numbers and replacing letters with a number or unusual characters (^, $, #, etc.) Your system should be easy enough for you to remember without writing it down but not so easy that is could be quickly hacked.
- Trusted Sites: One of the easiest ways to avoid security threats is to visit only reputable sites. You can often verify a site’s validity through a quick Google search or using browser add-ons like Web of Trust. Bear in mind, however, that any add-on that relies on user or community ratings is not 100% accurate but it can serve as one reference tool used for site evaluation. When in doubt, do not visit! If you happen across a suspicious site leave immediately and do not click or respond to popups.
- Downloads: Be very careful when downloading anything from the Internet. Only download things from trusted sites and scan each download with current antivirus and anti-malware software. Be particularly wary of .exe files and the more questionable (or outright illegal) the download the greater the security risk.
- Personal Information: Be very careful when entering your personal information online. Every piece of data you disclose could potentially be used by someone wishing to hack your system. Only enter information on trusted sites over a secure network and only enter it when necessary. Google does not really need your real name, address, or birthday for that Gmail account!