Safe Browsing

Between Apple being asked to create a back door to the iPhone and Google having to once again update security protocols, we can never be too safe. Information is becoming more and more difficult to protect, be cautious while browsing. There are people creating fake download buttons and attempting to replicate trusted sites in an effort to steal private information or extort money. Should you be worried? I would say no, at least for now, but would encourage everyone to implement safe browsing practices.

Safe Browsing and Deceptive Ads

Google recently announced that they would be enhancing their Safe Browsing protection to now include deceptive embedded content, such as social engineering ads. This will be in addition to the policies that they announced back in November. What does this mean? It means that embedded content, such as ads on a web page, will be consider social engineering (viruses, malware, phishing, etc.) when they meet certain criteria. 

These criteria are:

  • Pretend to act, look, or feel like a trusted entity. This means that the content could look like the actual website or browser.
  • Tries to trick the user into doing something that they would normally only do with a trusted site. This could mean trying to get someone to share their password, personal information, etc.

What does all of this mean? Be cautious. If you’re not certain of the validity of a link, then don’t click on it. If you get an email from your bank, email service provider, etc., stating that you need to update information, then go directly to that site instead of following the link. 

With the amount of viruses and malware floating around right now, it’s simply smarter to take the philosophy of better safe than sorry. Also, always have virus and malware protection installed on every computer. Attacks can spread to every computer on a network. Just as important, if not more, have a verified backup. There’s no excuse anymore given the prices of external drives and online real-time backup services. This is cheap insurance that is worth every penny and it could mean the difference between being up and running the next day as if nothing happened or not being able to open for business.

Let's talk about Surfing

We've always been told to put safety first, but to be safe, you first have to know that you're in an unsafe environment. That's what this article is all about, at least from the standpoint of the internet. Too often computers are hacked and valuable information is lost unnecessarily. Not necessarily because of careless behavior, but from simply not knowing that something was unsafe. 

The next two points are specific ways to be safer while browsing the internet:

Point One: Think about the network to which you're connected. Have both virus and malware protection on your computer.

Have you ever been at the local coffee shop, on your computer, and decided to pay a bill or check your bank balance? This would seem harmless (sometimes it is), but the problem lies in the fact that most coffee shops do not have any sort of firewall or protection from outside threats. At this point, I'm not even talking about someone stealing your private information, but about the person across the room who accidentally clicks on the wrong link. If someone else opens a virus while your computer is connected to the same network, then that virus has an extremely clear path directly onto your computer. This is why we advocate so much for anti-virus software and keeping that software up-to-date. Should you stay off of all public wifi spots? No, but make sure that the computer is protected by installing a virus protection and anti-malware software. Also, be cautious while browsing. If you're going to get on the internet at your local coffee shop, that's fine, but avoid checking your bank balance or any other potentially private information on unprotected networks. Caution is key! 

Point Two: Make your password secure. The less it makes sense the better!

If a conversation about internet safety starts, then talk about passwords will inevitably be thrown into the mix. There's a good reason for this and it's because passwords are extremely important. They should be complicated and, in general, not really make sense. This would make them as difficult as possible to crack. But I know that, for most of us, it needs to make a little sense so that it can be remembered. However, there are a couple of rules to follow that can really help with creating a good password.

A few of those rules to remember are:

1. Add in upper and lower case letters, special characters, and numbers. This makes it difficult for a hacker or "bot" to crack. Not all sites will allow the use of special characters, but, when possible, use them.

2. If a website says that the password is weak (this would happen at signup or when resetting a password) then listen. Rethink the password and come up with a new one. Again the more complicated the better.

3. Do not write down passwords! I know that sometimes it becomes difficult to remember multiple passwords, but having them written down opens the door of opportunity for them to be misplaced or misused.

The biggest factor in internet safety is caution. As the saying goes "better safe than sorry".