We all know how easy it is to get distracted while surfing the web. A related story here, a special offer there, and suddenly you’re running in a whole different direction from where you started. However, that seemingly innocuous link may prove to be a trap, divulging information you never intended to share. So it’s increasingly important you develop browsing habits that will help you improve the security of your online activities.
Below we’ve put together a list of simple recommendations that will significantly strengthen your browsing security.
Don’t rely on your browser to protect you from malicious Websites.
Browsers only warn you about sites but cannot stop you from going there. Even if you have high-security settings and anti-virus software, visiting a risky Web site can result in viruses, spyware, or worse.
Keep your browser software up-to-date.
New patches are often released to fix existing vulnerabilities in browser software, so having the most up-to-date versions is critical.
Run anti-virus software and scan files before downloading.
Anti-virus software provides protection by scanning for and removing malicious files on your computer and avoid downloading anything until you’re confident that it is secure. If you have any suspicion that a file may not be legitimate or may be infected, scan it with anti-virus software before downloading.
- Use HTTPS.
The “s” in “https” stands for secure, meaning that the Website is employing SSL encryption. Check for an “https:” or a padlock icon in your browser’s URL bar to verify that a site is secure before entering any personal information.
- Don’t reuse passwords.
Using the same password for multiple sites only makes it easier for attackers to compromise your sensitive information. Instead, keep track of your different passwords with a handwritten list that you keep in a safe place or come up with your own algorithm for creating unique passwords that only you would know. It is also recommended that you change your passwords every 90 days. Use a Passphrase keeper like LastPass.
Disable autocomplete for forms or remember your password features.
Nearly all browsers and many websites in general offer to remember your passwords for future use and websites can use hidden fields to steal the data from forms. Enabling these features makes them easier for an attacker to discover if your system gets compromised. Also, criminals can hijack your browsing session and steal your information if you stay logged in to a site. If you have these features enabled, disable them and clear your stored passwords.
Read privacy policies.
Websites’ privacy policies and user agreements should provide details as to how your information is being collected and protected as well as how that site tracks your online activity. Websites that don’t provide this information in their policies should generally be avoided.
Regularly monitor your bank statements.
Keeping an eye on your online statements will allow you to react quickly in the event that your account has been compromised.
Avoid public or free Wi-Fi.
Attackers often use wireless sniffers to steal users’ information as it is sent over unprotected networks. The best way to protect yourself from this is to avoid using these networks altogether.
Turn on your browser’s popup blocker.
Popup blocking is now a standard browser feature and should be enabled any time you are surfing the Web. If it must be disabled for a specific program, turn it back on as soon as that activity is complete.