Eight Tips for Safer Web Browsing

How safe is your PC while web browsing? Check out these easy web-browsing tips for you and your family!

Browsing the Internet is like being a tourist visiting New York’s Times Square: you are in a hustling, bustling place full of interesting people, stores and things to do. But you’re also in a place where you need to keep your guard up and be aware of your surroundings, particularly if you have children in your care.

Follow these tips for safe web browsing and make your Internet visits safe and enjoyable:

  • Double-check information from the Web. Not everything you see (such as a mutant cat) or read (such as an email allegedly from American Airlines) is true because it’s online.
  • Be with your children as they learn to use the Internet. Sit beside them as they start browsing the Web. Share your thoughts about what is good online behavior, and encourage them to tell you about anything they think is suspicious.
  • Don’t reveal much personal information. Protect yourself from identity theft and other threats to your privacy by limiting the amount of personal information you share online.
  • Vet Web sites before visiting them. Google has a tool that allows you to check Web sites to see if they are infected or distribute malware. In your browser, enter http://google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=www.example.com (replace www.example.com with the web address you wish to test). Google will generate a report outlining any security concerns on the site.
  • Be careful of free stuff. When you see an offer for a free download from a company you don’t know, the best thing to do is not click on anything in that window. This is especially true of any pop-up window that says your computer has a virus — don’t click anything except the red X in the top right that closes the window. In Windows 7 you can also hold down the Alt Key and press F4 to force-close it, or just quit the browser and restart with a fresh window.
  • Watch out for malicious Web sites and sites that mimic real sites. The good news is that most current browsers identify and warn you that a site might be hacked. If you get such a message, the best thing to do is to not visit the site. Sites can be designed so that just by visiting them you contract a virus or malware. If you see a page refresh and change while you are reading it, or it redirects you to a different page when you didn’t click on anything, close the page and restart the browser.
  • Beware of email scams. As a result of visiting a hacked Web site, or because your email address is in a hacker’s database, you may receive email that looks official but isn’t. Look for signs of forgery. For instance, PayPal always uses your first and last name in its email greetings, so a generic greeting (“Dear Customer”) should be a flag that this is not from PayPal. If the email has a return address that is not official, report it to the genuine company and delete it without opening.
  • Don’t open any attachments or follow any instructions in suspicious email, especially from people you don’t know. And, be wary of any emails from known contacts that have suspicious content, such as an email from a colleague that is full of spelling errors and nonsense phrases.

The Internet, like New York, never sleeps and is full of great things waiting to be discovered by you. By practicing safe web browsing, you’ll be able to enjoy  “site seeing” without getting hurt.

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