Staying Safe on the Internet

I’ve been thinking about writing a quick post about internet security recently, and this article by Stephen Fry finally made me write it. We are living in dangerous times, so to speak – keeping your computer free of viruses or any such malware is becoming more difficult. We also have an army of scammers and ‘phishers’ who want to steal our credit card details by sending fraudulent emails (Mac and Linux users — take note: you don’t have to be running Windows to get caught out by phishing!).

So, I thought I would offer up a few tips on staying safe on the internet. Feel free to contribute in the comments to anything I have missed – I might make this into a proper article. Some of these tips are Windows-only — for that I apologise, but the majority of people who need these tips will be Windows users.

  • Do not, and by this I mean DO NOT open attachments from anyone you do not know. It’s just not worth the risk.
  • If you’re running Windows, disable the option to ‘Hide extensions for known file types’ – you can do this by going to a folder, clicking on ‘Tools’ -> ‘Folder Options’, then clicking on the ‘View’ tab, and in the list of checkboxes unchecking the box next to ‘Hide extensions for known file types’. This will prevent you from accidentally opening up virus.jpg.exe, thinking it’s a photo! (admittedly, it probably wouldn’t have ‘virus’ in the name, but still…)
  • If in any doubt, err on the side of caution.
  • If you receive an email with an offer that is “too good to be true” — it probably is. DO NOT send your bank details to anyone, even if they promise money.
  • Always access your bank’s website by typing it in / using a favourite in your browser. Never click on links in emails, even if they appear to be from your bank. There are many fraudulent websites which look exactly like your bank’s website, don’t be fooled.
  • Always run a firewall. Windows XP has a firewall – if you don’t know whether you have turned it on, see this page.

That’s all for now, but I may well update this as time goes on!


2 responses to “Staying Safe on the Internet”

  1. You missed out – regularly scan for Viruses – if you need a virus check you can get a free one from here – I personally have this set to update and run every evening (well every day in the small hours of the morning)

    Also try and keep an eye out for Spyware infecting your computer – you can get Ad-aware for free if it’s for personal use which should help you keep your computer free from extra programs installed without you realising it.

    Finally also use a browser with a popup blocker – they will come and either force you to install their product (and a pile of other rubbish you dont want) by not allowing you to close them – OR they’ll just quietly install stuff whilst your shouting at it to go away, a simple popup blocker (which is found in most browsers – I know it’s on Avant I think its on Firefox) should help prevent some of this.

    Apologies if Stephen Fry said all this all ready – I’ve not read his article yet…

  2. […] have recently been talking about similar things on their blogs: Phill gave some excellent advice on staying safe on the internet, avoiding the common pitfalls of viruses and spam; and Alex joined in too with some hints on […]

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