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While security is everyone’s responsibility, it’s not always easy to get right. Our “Security Best Practices” blog series will provide simple tips that enable users to improve their online security. These articles aren’t for pros, but for those trying to get their basics down.
After our most recent research on the dangers of exploit kits, we wanted to put together a quick list on some of the easiest things that you can do to stay safe online. The Internet can be a risky place; it is an excellent resource for shared knowledge but, unfortunately, also a common vector for ransomware, malware and other nasties that exist for no other reason than to steal your data and make your life more difficult. Here are three steps that the everyday user can follow to stay safe online.
1. Always maintain patches and updates on your browser
Always download and apply the latest software patches regardless of your preferred browser. If you browser is not supported with regular software updates, as in, it has gone End of Life, consider choosing a new browser. For example, as recently as January 2016, Microsoft announced that it would no longer provide security updates or technical support for older versions of Internet Explorer. The company will stop providing updates if you use any version of Internet Explorer prior to the latest version 11. A well-maintained browser will warn you when a webpage you are about to visit might be loaded with malware.
Figure 1: If your browser looks like this, consider upgrading (Source: viola.org).
2. Be wary of suspicious links and never open unsolicited attachments
You should always be wary of the source anytime you are given an option to download a file. A file downloaded from an untrusted source could contain harmful code that could do all kinds of damage to your computer or mobile device. It could take control of your computer, compromise your personal data, and possibly expose you to identity theft. If you come across a file or a download that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Figure 2: This website is suspicious because it’s offering a download but it’s not the site for the author of the software. This site might be a threat. (Source: How To Geek)
3. Watch out when asked to give personal information
How are you supposed to enjoy the Internet and all it has to offer without providing some details about yourself? You can’t, really. Vital personal tasks, such as staying in touch with friends, banking, or conducting other business, require you to provide some of your valued personal information. If you do provide information online, our advice is to play it safe and confirm that you are providing the information to a trusted source.
Figure 3: Notice the lock image and the HTTPS address. (Source: Wikipedia)