To a certain extent, internet browsing is like gambling with your personal security unless you know what to watch out for. Safe browsing for the typical web surfer requires vigilance. Web surfers can find themselves navigating to some of the darkest corners of the internet. These areas present higher risks of becoming targets of malicious attackers and viruses. If you’re browsing a site for the first time, the following safety tips can help you understand how to be safe and what to look at when browsing and shopping.
Do not make online purchases over public WiFi
The first tip to safe online shopping is never make a purchase through a public WiFi connection. Public WiFi is one of the least secure internet connections available. While it may seem convenient to do some online shopping while you are out running errands, at the airport, or having lunch with a friend, it is unsafe to make purchases even if using secured methods of payment due to the lack of security on public WiFi. Always make purchases from the privacy of your own home using your internet connection, which should contain security features through settings provided by your internet service provider.
Understand security risks
Web attacks can happen through unsecure web browser settings. Cross-site scripting, cross-site request forgery, and clickjacking are some of the risks your web browser faces each time you log in and surf through a few pages. Attackers use deceptive web links to redirect your browser to a location of their choosing when hijacking sessions in order to cause harm to your computer. Another type of web attack involves security flaw exploitation in your browser or plug ins such as Flash Player for the purpose of compromising your system. These attacks come in the form of buffer overflows, brute force, Trojans, worms, and other remote attacking attempts.
Defend yourself with a few considerations when browsing online
- Your first line of defence should be to use multiple browsers. If visiting a website for the first time and you wish to make a purchase, switch to another browser. This way if your browser is compromised, the attacker cannot cross over to attack your credit card information. While the possibility is still there, you greatly reduce your risk of attack. If you use one browser primarily for your social media pages, use another one when you need to pay bills or access your online banking. This way, vulnerabilities cannot leak from one browser to another.
- Secondly, you should change your password often with a strong password. While it is not recommended, you can write your password down and keep it in a safe place away from friends, family, and prying eyes. A strong password is at least twelve characters long, does not contain common words, and has at least two upper case, two lower case, two numbers, and two special characters. If you write it down, do not write what site it coincides with. You can take it a step further and encrypt the password when you write it down. For instance, if you know the numbers or the upper case letters in it, write those as asterisks. Change your password at least once a quarter for online banking and at least twice a year for everything else such as Ebay, Amazon, and Paypal.
- When making online purchases, always check for addresses with https in the address. Https provides a secure connection for online purchases and banking. Some websites such as banks may also include a lock symbol in the address bar which means the site is using a verified https connection to safeguard sensitive information. Try to use a third party such as Paypal to pay for online goods or services as it provides a secure way to pay. Never send money to someone via Western Union for online purchases. While this may seem secure, it is a great way to send money, however; it offers very little consumer protection.
Safeguard your physical devices
You can add a layer of physical security to your web enabled devices by placing passwords, pass codes, or biometric locks (fingerprint recognition) to prevent someone from accessing the device. This works as a deterrent in case your smartphone, tablet, or laptop are lost or stolen. This is also a great way to prevent young children from maxing out your credit card on the latest freemium games.
Keep your browsers updated
Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Internet Explorer all include security updates in each new version. Though it may seem a hassle, staying on top of these updates and downloading them as soon as they come out is one way you can ensure to get the latest security patches. New viruses come out every day so it is critical to keep your browsers updated regularly. You can perform these updates manually or set your browser up to perform the update au