Tips for browsing safely

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In February every year, the world celebrates what we now know as Safer Internet Day (SID). Organized by Insafe (a European network of Awareness Centers), its principle objective is to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially among children and young people across the world.

Internet safety is quite a broad subject whose scope of potential effects may range from privacy compromise and misuse to financial loss, emotional and physical harm. Back home, we ask: How have you prepared yourself to ensure your own internet safety?

You visit someone’s profile and they have crucial information. Image Credit: BougieBlackGirl
You visit someone’s profile and they have crucial information. Image Credit: BougieBlackGirl

A couple of days back, Joanitah Nalubega delved a bit into basic checks and precautions that could help you maintain or improve your browsing experience. Today, we look at a few more that will help you draw a comprehensive safety checklist;

1) Check for, and activate any additional security features (aside from the SSL already mentioned) that may trigger alerts you in case your profile is in danger of being compromised. These include email login alert for social media sites like facebook, yahoo and Gmail, as well SMS notifications.

2) Maximize the use of privacy features and settings on any sites that have these options. Again, social media is the biggest culprit here. Some people put their bio-data out there for every Tom, Dick and Harry.

You visit someone’s profile and they have crucial information like phone number, date of birth, email and their spouses exposed to everyone. Only people you consider close enough should have access to this information.

3) Certain streaming websites (news, sports and other events) contain multiple adverts that may either be malicious or time wasting. Most of them have actually have provisions for closing the ads without necessarily visiting the embedded links, but these are usually made less conspicuous than the hoax close options that are always more prominent.

4) Turn off the location feature when posting social media status updates unless you are travelling to some place you don’t know. It may make it easy for someone trailing you to locate you. Some smart phones have this feature turned on by default.

5) Regularly change/update personal security information such as passwords. Social media is awash with a number of applications and games that require the user to supply their passwords. You never know from which application someone will access your private information.

6) Apply strict filtering on your email accounts to avoid running into spam emails. The same applies to social media accounts that are now awash with schemers and scammers.

7) Avoid using the same password on all your internet accounts – email, online transaction accounts, social media, forum subscriptions and professional group memberships such as LinkedIn. Granted, we now live in an era where we have tens (and probably hundreds) of PINs and passwords that we ought to memorize, but maintaining the same password for each medium is never a good idea.

8) Install and regularly update a strong anti-virus. Regular checks on trending anti-viruses may help. There was a time when Avast was the in-thing, then came AVG, f-secure, Kaspersky, Symantec (Which is still doing strong, I must add) and many others in between.

9) Avoid download links that go through additional 3rd application downloaders. What do I mean? I have seen phones that cannot, for example, do direct 3rd application installations (such as whatsapp). In such cases, the app (or its update) has to be downloaded via a PC first and transferred via bluetooth before it can be installed on the phone.

In some cases when a user just types “Whatsapp free download” (as an example), they are redirected to a site that requires them to get a third party application downloader first. Some of these are hoax download links that come with malware.

10) Take note of warnings regarding browser add-ons and plugins that may affect your browsing experience. One example here is Internet Download Manager (IDM). Some add-ons slow down, and may temporarily hang or crash certain browsers. This may happen when you are in the middle of a composing an important email and you will end up losing your (unsaved) data.

  • Dan, thank you so much for providing these safe browsing tips. With encryption and digital security becoming widely publicized concerns, it’s so important for Internet users to know how to protect themselves!