Anyone using a computer to browse the internet has probably heard of potential threats to their security online. While these threats are quite real and likely to grow as use of the internet becomes even more commonplace than it is now, there are certain methods that internet users can use in order to reduce their risk.
There are many efficient software programs available, some of them free, which can help protect the security of your computer while you are online. Those programs are quite effective at what they do but they are just that, programs, and they cannot protect you against every single threat out there. This is why you need to be well educated on potential security hazards on the internet and on ways to avoid your exposure to them.
The main threat to your computer on the internet is that it could become infected with malicious pieces of code that can severely compromise its security. If you are not careful in your online activities your computer could become infected by a virus. This can allow unauthorized access to your data as well as letting an attacker take over your system and use it as a “zombie” to send out unsolicited bulk email or to mount Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks in which hundreds of computers are used at the same time to attack a server with the hopes of bringing it down.
How do you protect yourself from viruses? The first thing to do would be to make sure that your operating system and internet browser have been updated and have all necessary security fixes applied. Having up-to-date software is of a great importance these days, as hackers and virus creators often exploit security flaws found in web browser and computers operating systems. Software updates often contain fixes to security issues that were reported to the vendor and repaired. In order to stay safe be sure that automatic updates are enabled on your browser and operating system. This will allow any security vulnerabilities that were discovered to be quickly patched. Note that this doesn’t apply exclusively to your web browser and system software. Any software that connects to the internet, like file sharing programs, instant messaging programs or internet telephony clients could have potential holes in them and should be kept up to date.
Another important step in making your computer more secure is to install security software that will protect it from viruses and malware. Previously, anti-virus programs simply scanned your computer for the presence of known or suspected viruses. Nowadays, they have evolved into comprehensive security suites which can detect and remove many different types of security threats, like viruses and spyware. In addition to constantly monitoring for threats amongst files on your hard drive, modern security software is able to protect you while you are surfing the web by blocking access to sites that have harmful or potentially dangerous content, like viruses, security exploits designed to gain unauthorized access to your data and threats to your privacy. If you are on a tight budget, there are many free security programs available as well, so there is really no excuse not to have protection installed on your computer.
Perhaps the most important element in being safe on the internet is exercising common sense and simply being careful. Only download files from websites that are reputable and trusted. Avoid downloading software from file-sharing services, as there is often no way to guarantee that these files don’t contain malicious software in them. Don’t open attachments that are sent to you in unsolicited emails, as these often contain malicious software which can harm your computer. You should also backup your important files and documents to an external storage device or upload them to an online backup service. That way, should data on your hard drive be damaged due to a computer virus, you will be able to restore them easily.