When users go online, their personal information may be exposed in a number of different ways. For this reason, Internet security procedures should be understood and practiced by anyone who accesses the Internet.
Common Threats Faced by Users
The most well-known threats to Internet security are computer viruses. A virus is a self-replicating program that infects a device and makes a number of undesirable changes. Some viruses may attack the operating system of a device rendering it useless. Other viruses may delete data from within the hard drive. There are a multitude of known computer viruses, each with varying degrees of severity.
Spyware is another common type of malicious software. Some spyware tracks and monitors Internet usage for marketing purposes. The most dangerous spyware may include key loggers. These record and transmit everything that a user types. Hackers can then use this information to access a user’s accounts and perpetrate identity theft and fraud.
How Users can Protect Themselves
Users can protect themselves by using the following Internet security protocols:
· Use a firewall – A firewall can help keep a network secure by controlling incoming and outgoing traffic by analyzing data-packets and using a predetermined set of rules. It can be hardware or software-based. Often, one can be found built directly into the user’s operating system. Additionally, many broadband routers have rudimentary firewall capabilities built in.
· Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software – This software will analyze programs and files as they are downloaded on to the user’s system. Users should also be sure to run frequent scans of their entire computer system to check for malware that may have slipped through, or that was not yet identified by the software. It is crucial that users keep their software up-to-date as new viruses are frequently developed and identified.
· Disable the ability to run scripts without permission – some Web browsers will allow users to block scripting. Because scripting is needed for infected or malicious websites to install code onto a user’s computer, disabling this ability will serve to protect users.
· Monitor mobile devices for the presence of unauthorized software additions – Users may occasionally be prompted to update an application on their mobile device that they do not remember installing. This may be a sign that their device has been infected. Users are advised to periodically look through the applications on their devices and delete any that are unimportant or that they do no use.
· Block third-party cookies – Most Web browsers make it possible for users to block cookies. While most cookies present no threat to the user, a few can. Blocking the cookies can provide a bit of security to a user.
· Do not open suspicious emails – Viruses and spyware can be embedded within an email. Sometimes, hackers will send an email that appears to be from a known source. Within the email will be a link. Clicking on the link can infect a user’s computer and present a security risk. The link may also be a phishing scheme that will trick users into entering usernames and passwords into a bogus site.
· Use strong passwords – Users are advised to use strong passwords that include capital and lower case letters as well as numbers and special symbols. People should not use passwords that are easy to guess, such and names of family members or pets.