The internet is a vast and interesting place, where you can make friends, do your shopping, research any subject, communicate in many different ways or just play games. It has revolutionized so many things in our lives mostly for the better.
It is like a world within our computers, yet so many people visit that world without taking any precautions against the pitfalls and dangers that mirror the real world in many ways.
Internet security is a big subject and this article is not definitive by any means and is meant as an over view of the basic things you can do to keep yourself safe.
Firstly, never give out your personal details to a stranger, even someone you have got to know online over a period of time may not be who or what you think they are.
Avoid using your real name in forums, this is why a user name can be given, pick one that you like, either your first name, or something more personal to you. After all, if someone wants to trace you for malicious reasons, they won’t be able to locate you unless they involve the police.
Don’t put your email address online, as that can be tracked by what are called ‘bots’ which are automatic programs that ‘harvest’ emails to sell on to spammers (people sending junk email). If you do need to display your email for some reason, change it, for example firstname.lastname@example.org becomes yourname (at) btinternet (dot) com, as you can see even though it is transcribable by a human, an automated program cannot understand it and moves on. There are often reasons why you need to make your address public, just be mindful that this is indeed public and have good spam software in place to help you.
If you receive an email allegedly from this or any other site asking you to login using a link in the email, do not follow that link, as this may be a spoof email sending you to another site which may look identical, but is designed to capture your login details, including your password, it is very common for spoofs like this to appear to come from your bank or ebay, this practice is called ‘phishing’ as they are fishing for your data. So always goto the site by typing in the address you know or using a saved link in your browser.
Check the software the site you are on is using, is it upto date? A quick check of any copyrights often at the bottom of the page cross referenced with the softwares homepage should help here. If it isn’t upto date it can be vulnerable to a hacking attempt, so be a good net citizen and email the administrator of the site, it may be an over sight, so they should be glad of the warning, but till it gets updated be more cautious of any content you add and use a password unique to that site so it can’t be used to access other sites you use.
Even the biggest of companies like Sony and Amazon have had security breaches, so never assume anything is totally safe, so always have a what if plan ready. Be ready to change the passwords to sites you use, inform the bank of any compromised information, and should freud or theft be suspect call the police, it is a growing crime and needs to be investigated properly.
Also be very concious of where you go online, after all would you go to the rough part of town at night without being at least a little watchful of people lurking about. So if you wander into a part of the internet that is occupied by unsavoury content, expect unsavoury people, and dodgy deals.
If your computer needs anti-virus software, get it and keep it unto date.
Don’t forget your phone, smart phones are portable computers that connect to the internet. As they go out and about with you it is great to use the various free wi-fi networks offered by shopping centres, cafés, bookshops etc. I’d always caution against using them to conduct personal business unless you are sure you actually are on their network and not one pretending to be, as anyone with a computer and internet access can create a network for you to join. If you want to do your banking do it on the mobile networks internet 3g/4g by turning your wi-fi off, or wait till you get home.
It may all sound a little scary, but by following this simple advice you will be able to protect yourself online.