The word wide web is a wonderful place. Though it can also be a dangerous place. From viruses to protect your computer from to inappropriate content to protect young and old minds alike from!
With that in mind in this edition of our blog we have tips for you on safe web browsing. There is quite a bit to cover on this topic so I will split it into parts one and two.
In this part of safe web browsing we are going to take a look at general tips to keep you safe browsing the web regardless of which browser you are using. Drive by browser attacks are a very real threat. They are as a result of out of date software on your computer. So one of the first things to do is to ensure that you are keeping the software on your computer up to date.This is something that you will need to do on a regular basis (unless you sign up to ByteSafe Home – then we’ll take care of it for you.)
Next on the list for safe web browsing is to ensure that you are using decent passwords. Password1 might stop your children from trying to gain access to your computer. It isn’t going to protect you from a spammer trying to access your e-mail account. There are a range of password managers, the one I use is called Keeper, it works on Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows, and they even do a browser version which is operating system independent. These sorts of programmes simplify the process of using complex passwords, and allow you to create a different password for each account or website. Taking this simple step can really help to secure your online accounts. Just have a look at this for an idea of the difference a complex password makes.
You should also put in place some form of content/web filter. The one we use at work is called OpenDNS. This will help prevent you from visiting or being redirected to known “bad” websites. OpenDNS also offer a parental control version called FamilySheild if you wish to prevent access to adult websites. Do have a read through the description on the website to make sure it offers the protection you are after. This worth implementing at the router and computer level.
Most browsers now include the ability to open a version that doesn’t record any information about the browsing session (no cookies are saved, no history entry is made, and no auto-fill settings are saved) called private browsing. This is pretty useful if you find yourself using other peoples’ computers or public computers (e.g. the library) to log into your various different accounts. If you do often find yourself frequenting libraries and internet cafes then virtual keyboards are another thing to consider using in conjunction with this tactic. A virtual keyboard is a software keyboard that makes you less prone to somebody obtaining your password through key logging software (software that records the keys pressed on a keyboard). You can access the onscreen keyboard by going to the Accessories and then Ease of Access Centre (Windows Vista/7/8) or Accessibility (Windows XP).
Next thing to do is to make sure you have up to date anti-virus protection. Anti-virus software is a necessity these days, especially if you are using the web. I’m not going to tell you what to use (though I do think you’d be wise to use ours!) though I’d recommend you move away from the free options. We often find that the machines with the most infections are those with free anti-virus software installed on them. Anti-virus is important because whilst it isn’t going to save you from the latest threats (only regularly updating software will help there) it will stop a lot of older threats from getting in. It will also try to prevent access to files that have similar properties (code) to known threats.
Another step on the path to safe web browsing is to setup an admin account that is password protected on your machine; then have all the other accounts setup as standard users. For our business customers we ensure that all user accounts are standard user accounts and not admin accounts, this means that they are unable to install software or make system changes without requesting admin rights. Quite annoying from time to time, but worth it in the long run as it can stop Trojans and other nasties from installing viruses on to your computer. Microsoft have some handy videos on how to create user accounts on their website. See these links for Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. Due to its age this is not applicable to Windows XP. Yet another good reason to move from XP.
Finally for the really paranoid (and I believe there is good reason to be!) there is a fantastic little programme called Sandboxie. What this programme does is create a virtual machine (sandbox) on your computer, you can think of it as a computer within a computer. These two computers are isolated from one another so in theory information can’t break in or out of this sandbox. This is quite a powerful tool when you consider that any website you visit could infect your computer, if however you were to run your browser in Sandboxie any potential infection would be isolated to that virtual machine. If problems occur, you just close the sandboxed browser down and start again!
In the next edition we’ll cover browser specific tips on how to keep your web browser from infecting your computer.