How to be safe on the Internet

This section gives general advice on safely using email and the web.

You should also see our tips on How to avoid being phished and How to avoid viruses, Trojans, worms and spyware.

Keep up-to-date with security patches

Hackers frequently exploit vulnerabilities in operating systems and programs in an attempt to infect computers. Be aware of security updates for your computer’s operating system, browser, plugins and other code that could be the target of hackers. If you can, set up your computer to automatically download security patches.

Use firewalls

A network firewall is installed at your organization’s boundary and admits only authorized types of traffic. A client firewall is installed on each computer on your network, and also allows only authorized traffic, blocking hackers and Internet worms. In addition, it prevents the computer from communicating with the Internet via unauthorized programs.

Don’t follow links in unexpected emails

Links in unexpected emails can take you to bogus websites, where any confidential information you enter, such as account numbers and passwords, can be stolen and misused.

In addition, hackers often try to direct you to malicious webpages by spamming out links via email.

Use different passwords for every site

You should use a different password for each site where you have a user account. That way, if a password is compromised, only one account will be affected. In addition, make sure that your passwords are hard to guess and never use a dictionary word as your password.

Consider blocking access to certain websites or types of web content

In a company environment, you may want to prevent users from accessing sites that are inappropriate for workplace use, or that may pose a security threat (e.g., by installing spyware on computers). You can do this with web filtering software or a hardware appliance. Even if users are allowed to visit websites, you should make sure that all webpages they visit are scanned for security threats.

Scan email for malware and spam

Anti-spam programs can detect unwanted email and prevent it from reaching users’ inboxes, as well as scan for malware contained within the email.

Don’t click on pop-up messages

If you see unsolicited pop-ups, such as a message warning that a computer is infected and offering virus removal, don’t follow links or click to accept software downloads. Doing so could result in you downloading malicious code such as fake antivirus software.

Use routers

You can use a router to limit connections between the Internet and specific computers. Many routers also incorporate a network firewall.

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