Internet Security Basics
When it comes to the discussion of the Internet, most people know just enough to be dangerous. But the most important lesson you can learn is Internet Security so that you do not become a victim of the infamous Internet Identity thieves, or scammers.
The importance of knowing a few basics of the Internet and how it works will give you a better understanding on how to secure it. The key to a secure internet is understanding basics and incorporating what you know with security.
Stay tuned for more to come in the future on the very important topic of Internet Security
The World Wide Web
The term WWW or (World Wide Web), simply stated is the entire web in a nutshell. When it comes to the term WWW, it is basically the mother load of information and resources that is presented to the World in what we know today as websites.
Everything you see when you are browsing online is made up of the World Wide Web, and is accessed by, you guessed it, 'The Internet". The Internet is basically the provider of access to the web, and it consists of millions of interconnected computer networks that communicate with each other and link them together.
It is often misunderstood that when entering a web address like http://www.tech-tim.com that the WWW needs to be entered at all. The truth is, in most cases these days, the WWW does no need to be entered. Actually, the http is unnecessary as well unless it requires the s at the end (HTTPS) which will be my next point. So next time you enter a website or URL into a web browser, try to enter it without the www.
HTTP vs HTTPS
To be, or not to be secure
In a web address you will always see the letter combination HTTP or HTTPS at the first of the address. These call letters are a protocol that basically allows the browser you are using, like Chrome or Internet Explorer to communicate with the server where the website content is on.
HTTP (Hyper transfer protocol) was the first of the two protocols to come out. It was a less secure protocol that allowed information to transfer across the lines unencrypted. (Or Secured)
HTTPS (Hyper Transfer Protocol Secured) is the encrypted or secured version of the protocol and it secures and encrypts all information as it is entered and transferred back to the website.
When it comes to the difference, it is important to note that if you are on a website that requires you to enter personal information that could result in identity theft or important personal information like Credit Card information, Social Security numbers, or even phone numbers and addresses, that website should be provided as an HTTPS or secured website.
If it is not, it is good practice to stay clear of entering personal information into the website, because your information will be sent to the website insecurely and could be intercepted and stolen.
ALWAYS: Look for the https and the lock icon when entering personal information into a website! If you are not sure, or the website looks suspicious get out while you can.
Pick your poison
Start browsing securely
An internet browser is a program that is used to browse the internet. Its sole purpose is to provide a user friendly environment for accessing the Internet. There are many choices for browsers out there and though they are all very similar, they each offer a bit of uniqueness from another.
Internet Explorer is the standard browser that comes with all Windows Operating System, with the exception of the new Windows 10 Operating System which its called Edge. Being the standard for browsers also makes it the most venerable for attacks, well and its always been known to be a buggy program. In the IT World, we call it Internet Exploder.
With the many browser choices out today, some ask me all the time. What is the best browser to use? And while the answer is usually that its a matter of personal preference and what fits with you, I prefer to use Google Chrome for most of my browsing.
The key to internet browsing is not only securing your computer, but also securing your browser a bit would help to eliminate unwanted security breaches. I use an add on in Google Chrome called ABP or Ad Block Plus.
This little add on for your browser not only blocks those unwanted ads in sites like youtube or on websites that have ad videos attached to them to annoy you, it will also block unwanted threats that come in the form of an ad that are very popular today. Find the browser that fits your needs best, then make sure to secure it with ad ons like ABP.
Also it is a must to keep your Internet browser up to date. In most cases, the settings by default will automatically install updates, but you want to assure that they are set correctly.
Having an Antivirus is a must have to secure internet browsing. An Antivirus program is a program that runs on your computer to prevent unwanted threats to your computer. There is many brands and variations of Antivirus to choose from in today's market.
An Antivirus software holds the very important job of sniffing out threats that may infect your computer with malware (A broad term to describe threats) Some have the capability to do more then others, but as a gerneal rule, and antivirus goes to work when you perform tasks like downloading something, or installing a program, and can also run scans for threats, or even run realtime scans continuously.
The sad truth is, there is no Antivirus better then the next, or there simply would be only one antivirus software out there right? And while an antivirus software is designed to keep the threats out, no in particular brand is sure proof. This is where the added security measures and common sense decisions come into play.
The real difference is any given antivirus is the features that it provides. Most free versions will be simple and to the point, and if you practice safe browsing it will be all you will ever need. Others provide many features like the realtime scanning, internet browsing add on protection that analyzes every website you view, and even email and facebook protection.
Some of these features are quite helpful and could serve a purpose for some, but they do come with a price tag and are typically a yearly subscription requirement. I prefer the word "Free" because paying a yearly subscription for an antivirus to me is like buying an extended warranty on a brand new car. If you take care of it, its less likely to break.
With that being said, its important to understand that if you practice safe browsing, dont go to websites that are known for illegal activity, that you are not familiar with, or that just dont feel right once you get there, you have a less chance of getting infected. This goes hand in hand with downloading illegal content, opening an attachment in email from someone you dont know, or even downloading something without passing it through an antivirus scan first is a big no no.
Paranoia is a key factor to keeping a safe and secure computer!!
Another option for security is having what is called a soft firewall. The difference in a soft firewall and a hard firewall is simply soft is for software, and hard is for a hardware based firewall within your home or office network.
A firewall is like a wall that intercepts traffic between your local area network (LAN) and the outside world. Traffic in the geek world is basically how your computer communicates with the outside network to get you where you are going on the web.
In most cases for small business or home use, a software firewall is sufficient enough to use for added protection. While its not a necessity, it is added security and can help prevent threats to your local network and your computer.
Microsoft Windows comes standard with a firewall called Windows Firewall. It is active by default on your computer unless your Antivirus offers a firewall option, then the Antivirus program takes presidency over the Windows Firewall. Being that the Windows firewall is a standard feature in Windows, it too like Internet Explorer is venerable to attacks or holes in the software, and I personally dont use it.
As I mentioned there are many antivirus programs that offer a firewall with their product and will bypass the windows firewall. There is also firewall options in a free version, but they are becoming few and far between these days.
A good rule of thumb to determining if you need a good firewall is knowing how aggressive your internet browsing style is. If you tend to do a lot of research or require a heavy amount of browsing to a variety of websites, then it may be a good idea to have one. If you are a simple browser and stick to what you know and never stray, its not a necessity for you.
All across the Internet there are websites that we browse too that require to have a username and password for access. These websites secure their page for a reason, for your protection. The issue is that in today's keeping our end of the deal and maintaining a secure password for these sites seems more of a chore.
One of the most important keys to keeping a secure internet, and even a secure computer for that matter is maintaining a group of passwords for everything you access, and not a one for all password that anyone can figure out.
Lets face it, if a thief wanted into your house, with the right tools and skills it dont matter what type of protection you have right? But does that make it ok to leave the door open for anyone to walk into your house and take what you worked hard to obtain?
The answer is no, and in the case of passwords, the thought process should be the same. If you make all of your passwords "password" and someone is able to hack into your computer or even something as simple as you email, well then they have every capability of stealing your identity as well.
This is why having a hard to guess password with numbers letters and special characters is very important to security measures. It is also good to keep proactive and change them ever so often, every three to 6 months should keep you safe. But how am I going to remember all those passwords you may ask?
Well, there are many software solutions out there that are specifically for maintaining and keeping your passwords secure. One free version software that I have in my free-ware section is dashlane. Dashlane will not only store passwords that you enter manually, but it will also remember your password on your computer and log you in automatically.
I do not suggest saving your password for auto login with Dashlane to websites tat are used for financial use like bank accounts, accounting software, or anything that you store personal information that may jeopardize your identity.
For best practice security, change your passwords often, make them all different and hard to guess, never write them down in a notebook or sticky note them to your monitor, and never tell anyone your passwords as that should always be kept personal for yourself.