Securing the device
Regardless of the type of device being used to surf the web, there are some basic principles that should be followed. These principles are an important part of the three-pronged approach to safe internet browsing and include the following.
- Make sure the device itself is running the newest version of its operating system and has all other updates installed. It is best to set devices to automatically update. Nearly all devices allow the owner to control these settings and you can check your device manufacturer’s website for step-by-step instructions.
- Make sure a reputable antivirus software is installed and configured to update automatically. There are many good free antivirus offerings as well as paid offerings. You can also check with your internet service provider as they often offer antivirus for free with your subscription.
- Make every effort to surf the web on a personal device and not a public or shared device. If use of public or shared device is unavoidable, keep the browsing very general and do not input any personal information.
- Avoid connecting your device to public networks such as free WiFi networks provided by a hotel or coffee shop. When connected to public or shared networks use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt all the traffic from your device.
- Only download and install things on your device that come from well-known reputable sources.
Securing the Browser
There are many different internet browsers to choose from. Each comes with their own unique features and settings. Always refer to the browser vendor’s documentation for specifics. Below are a few tips that will help you secure any browser.
- Make sure you are using a reputable browser and that the browser itself is configured to update automatically. Also, explore the browser vendor’s website to learn how to turn on additional privacy and security settings as these options are generally a little different from one browser to the next.
- Most Browsers offer a private browsing mode that removes all browsing history and personal information when the browser is closed. Consider using private browsing modes if on a shared or public device. If private browsing is not offered, clear the internet cache and cookies when it is time to end the browsing session.
- Installing a pop-up blocker or ad blocker browser extension is a great way to keep from accidentally clicking on something that might try to steal your information.
- Take advantage of browser bookmark features that allow you to save the URL of frequently visited websites, if using a personally owned device. If using a public or shared device where bookmarking would not make sense, type the URL of the website into the browser rather than clicking a link as these can often take you to a spoofed website.
- Never allow a browser to save your passwords.
- Always log out of browsers and websites when your session is over.
- Websites are not all created equal. Look for signs that the websites you are visiting are secure. A few of the signs to look for are:
- HTTPS vs HTTP – Many sites use Hypertext Transport Protocol Secure (HTTPS). A lock icon indicates that your information will be encrypted. Avoid using website where the URL begins with HTTP as these websites pass your information through in clear text which can be easily skimmed by a malicious actor.
- Many sites give you control over what information can be gathered during the session via cookies. Always look at the cookie options and turn off all cookies that are not required for the website to function correctly and if given the option, never allow the website to track your online activity.
- Be wary of clicking on ads embedded in websites as these often contain malware or redirect you to a website that is built for malicious purposes.
- Never allow a website to save your passwords and always log out of a website when our session is over.
Securing personal information
Making smart choices regarding your personal information and privacy on the internet is of utmost importance. Consider the following things before inputting personal information to any website.
- Only do business with well known, credible companies.
- Limit personal information shared online.
- Consider using a secondary email account in online forms.
- Avoid submitting credit card info online when possible and if required devote one card to online purchases. Don’t use debit cards that are tied directly to your checking or savings accounts for online purchases
- Look for indications that you are being added to mailing lists by default. Failing to deselect those options may lead to unwanted spam email.
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