Top 5 Tips on How to Stay Safe Online

February 15, 2016 | By Editor 

This is the Internet era. We need the internet for many, many activities. It helps us acquire information, provide information, stay connected, and perform online financial transactions, among a multitude of other possibilities. In many situations we have to share personal information and other secure information related to credit/debit card details, pins, and passwords. Paying bills online or making purchases online is more easy than physically going to a counter or store to make the purchase. And thats where prudence matters.

1. Complex Passwords
Most online activities require the user to enter or type-in passwords. Cyber criminals are always on the prowl to get access to other’s sensitive data. Avoid easy to guess passwords, short passwords, and existing words and date of birth in passwords. Try to make it as long as possible with a mixture of lower and upper case alphabets, and special characters. It typically should not make sense. Pass phrases that are composed of alpha-numeric words and numbers may soon become mandatory as the next generation of password forming rules.

2. Effective Antivirus with Regular Updates
Cyber criminals install key loggers, which can capture each keystroke. While using a virtual keyboard or hovering option for sensitive online transactions could help protect against hardware versions of key loggers, it may not help against sophisticated software versions of keyloggers. Now, how do these keyloggers find their way into the user’s device. Key loggers are malware that are sent under the guise of attachments in emails or other forms of electronic communication. Clicking on links to malicious websites could lead to infection with viruses, Trojans and worms. Key loggers could be installed or back doors could be created for malicious access. Installation of an effective antivirus program that has its virus definitions updated regularly could help protect against this vulnerability.

3. Operating System and Patches
Using the latest operating system is another important factor in ensuring online security. Additionally it is very important that it must receive support in the form of updates and patches, as cyber criminals will continuously try to find out vulnerabilities and exploit them.

4. Browsers, Plug-ins and Updates
Always use the latest web browser. Keep it updated. Many popular plugins have been found to have vulnerabilities and keeping the browser updated is important for ensuring security. Better still is to install plug-ins only when needed.

5. Website Authentication through SSL Certificates
Cyber criminals create web pages that look like original sites. Usually banking and other websites where financial payment is involved is the target for these activities. A user believes that the webpage is genuine, but it may not be. However, there are ways to ensure that the website is genuine. Any genuine, secure website involving sensitive transactions should start with “https” and not just “http.” If it does, then it could be a fake website. There is a lock in the address bar, and for secure websites it would be green and locked. If the “https” is crossed out or otherwise, then it probably is a malicious website.

Websites that want to prove that they are genuine acquire Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates from reputed certificate providers. Only after the certificate authorities verify that the domain and business is genuine do they issue SSL Certificates. Malicious websites cannot get them easily. The padlock and the green address bar denote that the website has SSL certification. Clicking on the green lock provides more information about the certificate. The “SSleuth ” add-on for Firefox browser provides detailed, user-friendly information about the certificate. The name of the certificate provider, the type of SSL certificate, the validity of the certificate and the strength of the https are displayed when the left-most icon on the address bar is clicked on.

Hence, being prudent and confirming that the website is genuine before making any transactions or divulging sensitive information would enable safe internet activity.

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