Most people assume that visiting a webpage is a passive activity like reading a book or a magazine, but there is much going on while you’re reading the latest news or window shopping. Your computer and the web server that hosts the data you’re about to see or hear need to communicate and for this they must transfer data back and forth. This data passes through several other computers and that makes it vulnerable to interception at any point. Of course, secure servers that encrypt the information are being used more and more, but many websites haven’t adopted this security measure.
One of the most worrying internet threats is phishing, a type of information theft using deception. In short, you get tricked into believing you’re on a legitimate website and then persuaded or scared into giving your personal information. The most dangerous case is when the phishing website mimics a banking or shopping site, thus gaining direct access to your bank account details.
This could all lead to another type of cybercrime: identity theft. The phishers sell the stolen information to the highest bidders or use it themselves to open credit card accounts and buy expensive items in your name before you even notice something is wrong.
A more widespread threat is malware infection. Websites can harbour all sorts of nasty viruses, Trojans, spyware and adware. Some even without the site owner’s knowledge, as malware writers have become very good at injecting their creations into legitimate web pages.
Staying safe out there is up to each and every one of us
There is no way to tell for sure if a particular website is clear of malicious programs or phishing attempts, so it’s best to keep your eyes wide open and follow these internet browsing safe habits:
Bank and shop carefully. When making any transactions over the internet, make sure the website uses a secure web server to handle the data transfer. The signs of encryption technology are the URL that starts with https and a padlock icon in your browser status bar. Some banking and e-commerce websites also use third party encryption for extra safety and thus display a trust mark in the form of a logo or small gif image. This trust mark should be clickable and it should lead you to the company that secures the website. There you can check the validity of the trust mark and find out the details you need for your peace of mind.
Never click on links in spam messages or suspicious ads and pop-ups. One click is all it takes to get you on a phishing or malware-injected website, not to mention the possibility that a virus or a Trojan be let loose in your system right then and there. The best way to treat such unsolicited links is to ignore them and move on.
Don’t fall for ads that tempt you into downloading free software. Whether they’re offering the newest “web accelerator” or the wonderful “antimalware scanner”, you’re better off saying “no”. Free software programs could come at a price that’s significantly higher than what you pay for the commercial software, and for your internet security.
Put up your defences with a reliable internet security suite. In light of the risks, it makes sense to choose your computer protection wisely. Modern internet security software now comes with a variety of features, each designed to keep you safe in a particular area:
- A firewall to keep all suspicious internet traffic away from your PC, making sure no hackers or spyware programs compromise your privacy.
- An antivirus engine to detect and stop any piece of malware that’s trying to get into your system.
But some suites take internet security even more seriously and include additional layers of protection. We recommend BullGuard Internet Security 12 because it also offers you:
- The Safe Browsing feature that checks all the links in the search results and warns you against accessing those that put your PC or your data at risk.
- The Vulnerability Scanner that detects any outdated program you may have forgotten about and supplies you with the necessary updates that secure your system against malware and hackers.
- The Parental Control feature that makes sure your kids don’t get in trouble online, by stumbling on inappropriate content or malware-injected websites.