Keep yourself safe onlineThese days the internet is relied on by people all around the world, whether it is for business, finding information, to do their banking, or for their shopping. There are many benefits of the internet but, unfortunately, there is also a sinister side, with some attempting to gain at the expense of others. This can be through viruses, hacking into someone’s computer systems, phishing, or through social media. There are, though, certain things everyone can do to reduce the chances of them being taken advantage of. Besides you, your should also keep your kids safe online.

Anti-Virus Software and Firewall

Both anti-virus software and firewalls are needed to keep your computer safe. Contrary to the beliefs of some, they are not the same thing. A firewall blocks programs that are attempting to access your computer over a network, including the internet. Anti-Virus software, on the other hand, specifically blocks viruses. This will include viruses through emails and from things such as external drives. When anti-virus software detects a virus it removes it. In short, the job of a firewall is to block unauthorised access to the computer, while anti-virus software specifically attempts to spot viruses and prevent them from infecting the computer.

Passwords

One of the most common reasons people are hacked into is due to people guessing their passwords. For this reasons it is important to think carefully about passwords. For example, don’t use your name or date of birth, as this leaves you extremely susceptible of being hacked into. To limit the chances of someone guessing your password use long passwords and mix letters, numbers and other symbol. Passwords should be changed on a regular basis.

Emails

Don’t trust emails unless you know where they are from. This includes those that claim to be from banks or governments. Emails claiming to be from banks or government departments are some of the most common avenues used by criminals wishing to hack into computers. Banks and governments would not contact you in this way anyway. Importantly, do not open attachments in emails unless you know what they are and who they are from.

Don’t Disclose Private Information Online

Always think carefully before putting anything online. Don’t disclose information unless you are prepared for everyone to know about it. People often fail to think of the potential consequences of what they do online, especially on social networking sites. If you put something online you have to be prepared for anyone to find out about it, from your friends to your employers or possible future employers, and even criminals. You should never, for example, disclose your address or your whereabouts. If someone knows where you live and when you are on holiday, then they know when no-one will be home.

Online Shopping

While using the internet for shopping is another time when you need to be careful. In particular, there are two key things to make sure of when making online payments. The first is that the web address on payment pages begins with ‘https’ instead of the usual ‘http’. There should also be a lock symbol in the website address box. It is advisable to use common sense, for example don’t purchase through websites you have never heard of. Looking for contact details, such as a physical address and phone number, is also a good idea. Genuine businesses will supply these on their website. If in doubt, give them a call to see if anyone actually works there.

Common sense goes a long way when it comes to keeping you safe online. If something looks suspicious then you should assume it is and if something looks too good to be true then it may well be. You should take precautions such as using strong passwords and you shouldn’t say anything online that you wouldn’t tell everyone you know, and people you don’t know.

This Article is written by guest author Andrew Marshall who writes on a variety of internet subjects including Internet Safety and Computer Viruses.

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