Web safety often gets pushed to the bottom of to-do lists, along with other easy-to-avoid tasks like backing up your hard drive. You will be thankful that you backed up your iTunes library when your laptop finally bites the dust, and taking a few minutes to do a web safety checkup will save you hours of frustration if cyberthieves steal your bank account number, hijack your PayPal account, use your credit card for fraudulent purchases, or worse of all, empty out your bank account.
While Windows Update reminders might pop up and disrupt an intense game of Facebook Scrabble, don't ignore these helpful prompts. Closing out the window might not seem like a big deal, but you're leaving yourself wide open for online attacks. Windows Updates are free and can be even more important than antivirus protection. Automate your Windows Updates to ensure they're installed as soon as they become available. Keeping your computer updated with the latest safety patches from Microsoft will help close off dangerous holes in the Windows operating system that cybercriminals can use to infect your PC.
This is another easy step to ignore, but please don't! Antivirus is often combined with other security features, like antispyware, in an "Internet security suite" such as McAfee or Norton Internet Security. Check with your Internet provider to see if one of these suites is included for free as part of your service.
Antivirus programs protect your sensitive information by blocking malware that sneaks in through holes in unprotected operating systems, or through downloaded programs like Adobe Flash and Apple QuickTime. The key here is layering your protection. Combining good antivirus software with automatic Windows Updates will keep your PC's immune system at its highest level.
Simply put, a firewall is a barrier designed to protect your computer's network connection from being used against you by cybercriminals. All information moving in and out of your computer passes through the firewall, which blocks attacks like network worms and other malware, while permitting authorized data to come through.
How do you visit a website? Type in the name? Select it from a bookmark? You've probably noticed the "HTTP" prefix that appears in your web browser's address bar. When dealing with sensitive online activities, adding an extra "S" will increase your protection. By visiting the HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) version of your chosen banking and shopping websites, you can verify that you're visiting the website you think you're on. HTTPS authenticates sites by name, ensuring that https://www.pnc.com/, for example, is really PNC Bank and not a cybercriminal trying to redirect you to a malware site.
Use a locked-down browser.
As with sun protection, the more layers of security, the better. Using a shielded browser like SafeCentral delivers a locked-down Internet session, even if your PC's security has been compromised in the past. SafeCentral blocks key loggers, screen stealers, DNS redirection attacks, and other threats while you knock out your online banking and shopping.
When making important decisions, like finding a new doctor, you don't blindly choose. The same goes for websites you frequent. Using relatively unknown websites is much riskier than sticking to well-known names and brands. Do your research before visiting new sites, just like you would any new doctor, restaurant, or hairdresser in the real world. If you decide to use a locked-down browser like SafeCentral, you'll get the added benefit of the SafeCentral Directory at your fingertips – a repository of well-known websites that lets you know which ones can be trusted.
Google expert Maile Ohye speaks on how to shop safely online.
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