10 tips for Safe Surfing

So now you think you know your way round the internet. You may or may not have been hit by a virus yet. But have you really thought about how to keep you, your information and your computer safe?

Here are 10 handy tips for keeping all those maladies at bay!

1. Install anti-virus

Have you got anti-virus running? Did you bother to look at it and find out how to use it? Do you allow it to update regularly or do you turn off your computer as soon as you've finished with it. Many anti-virus programs update themselves directly from the internet at given times of the day. If your computer is switched off at this time, then your anti-virus can't update itself.

Make sure that your antivirus is installed properly, has a current license and is fully updated.

2. install anti-spyware

Many anti-virus software systems do not come with anti-spyware. Spyware is software that is either running on your computer or within your browser, collecting private details and sending them back to the software author. These details can then either be used directly or sold for use by credit card fraudsters. The more they know about you, the more they can mimic you!

Ensure that you have a full and recent anti-spyware software running on your computer. Ensure that it is updated regularly.

3. keep anti-virus & anti-spyware current

Anti-malware (anti-virus and anti-spyware) software works by scanning snippets of code for patterns that are unique to known viruses. These patterns are held in a “virus database”. Your anti-virus will update its “virus database” from the internet periodically so that it can keep up to date with new viruses as they are discovered. However, many producers do not by default update the software to new improved versions of the software automatically. This means that your “virus database” may be up to date, but the software running it is badly out of date.

Ensure that your anti-malware software is updated regularly.

4. Perform daily scans

Do you switch on your computer, use it then switch it off? Perhaps you think this is the safest way of using your computer? When it's off, it can't get infected? Actually, it's most at risk when YOU are using it ! If you had left it on over-night or yesterday afternoon after using it, perhaps it would have updated it's “finger-print” libraries and scanned your hard disks to make sure that there are no pieces of yet undetected mal-ware already lurking on your computer. Have you checked that you anti-spyware and anti-virus program run regular disk scans? Have you checked the output from these scans?

Check that your computer is scanned regularly.

5. disable image previews in outlook

Outlook is dumb! In fact, in my opinion, many microsoft products are dumb! Viruses can be carried in pictures. When you receive a picture in your inbox, outlook, by default, reads it automatically, therefore, infecting your computer without you doing anything! If image preview is switched off, outlook will only read and display images, if you ask it to. It is therefore your decision whether you trust the person sending you the image. But think, where did that image come from in the first place. You might trust a friend but if he got it from the internet, perhaps it could be infected.

Make sure that Outlook does not display images unless you ask it to.

6. Disable autorun

When you insert a CD does it try and run programs off the CD automatically? If it does, then you have autorun enabled. Many viruses can reproduce themselves by attaching themselves to your drive, whether CD, network or USB. When you load any other media, the virus program is run!

Disable Autorun

7. Do not click on links in emails

Similar to images embedded in an email – can you trust the link in an email? Are you absolutely sure that it is going to connect to the site you think it is. Spammers are very clever about this. I was surprised recently to find a link that I thought looked OK at first sight was a bogus website but even nearly fooled me (I often look inside spam emails to see what they are trying to do – but don't try this at home unless you know what you're doing!).

If you receive a link in an email, re-type it into your browser. Do not cut and paste.

8. Cookies, this misconception?

Many people say cookies are harmless, some people say they are not. Who to believe? I say they are harmless. It's what else you do that is harmful. Cookies are small text files held by your browser that websites use to store information about your visit to their website. A cookie of one website CANNOT be read by another website. If you give personal information to a website be aware that it may be stored in a cookie.

If you do not trust that website, do not give personal information.

9. Keep private details PRIVATE

So you want to sign-up for a news feed or a forum. You have been asked for your full name which you have gladly given. How much more information do they need to let you sign up. An email address, OK. So why did they need your name? Do they need your Date of Birth as well !!!! What more personal details are you prepared to spread about the internet. Personally, I only give personal information to sites I KNOW I can trust. If you're happy to give them your credit card number, it's OK to give them your name, DOB and address. But do you KNOW that you can trust them. Are they always going to keep that information private? Perhaps they will get hacked? I stick to the big names. If someone else wants my credit card detail, I prefer to see a big name processing the card details and not the merchant directly, like one of the big internet clearing houses, worldpay or paypal. These shops let you fill your basket and then when it comes time to pay, they pass the amount due onto their card processing company who takes your money and then passes back success to the shop.

Think twice and then think again who you trust to have your personal information.

10. Passwords - choose a decent one / don't share it

Choose a decent one, so you go and choose the name of your pet and either substitute a letter for a number or add a number onto the end. Easy! 5 minutes work for a hacker! What I suggest is that you choose a totally random 6-8 letter word. Change some of the letters to uppercase. Add an acronym that describes who that password is for and then add a number like the year that you created that password or some other memorable number. Separate each with a non-alpha character like a dash. For example,




EQUALS: hm-26-guiDelin3

10b Don't share it.

Don't let your browser store it. Don't use an aggregator site and let them store it either. Don't keep it in a word document, even if you have password protected the document. Decryption for MS password protection is available free on the net!

Don't give your password to ANYBODY, human or computer!

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