Safe Internet browsing

Users in all corners of the globe browse the Internet everyday. However, in spite of appearances, it is not free from dangerous threats. Bear in mind that visiting a web page is not a passive activity, but both the computer establishing the connection and the web server that hosts the data to be consulted need to communicate and to do this they must transfer data. This data transfer is not direct and must pass through several computers, meaning that the information can be intercept by any of them. Even though secure servers, which encrypt the data to be transferred, are available, the majority of web pages do not implement this security measure.

One of the dangers faced by users when they browse the Internet is a hacker accessing their cookies, small text files saved on the users computers by the server of the page the user is visiting. The information cookies contain is usually related to the page being visited, which can include user names and passwords, browsing preferences, etc.

Java Applets and JavaScripts can also put users at risk. Although the majority of these programs that are run on the user's computer at the request of the server are harmless, they can be designed to steal system information and send it to a malicious user.

Another threat that is becoming one of the most dangerous threats on the Internet is phishing. This technique involves tricking users into thinking that are visiting a legitimate web page, when they are actually visiting a malicious page. This technique is particularly dangerous when the malicious page simulates an online banking page. Web pages that perfectly imitate the appearance and functions of well-known banking entities are becoming increasingly common-place on the Internet and entice users into entering personal data that will fall directly in the hands of unscrupulous cyber criminals.

But that's not all, there are also viruses that are capable of getting into computers when users browse the Internet. To do this, they usually exploit vulnerabilities that allow them to install themselves on computers without the user realizing. The malicious code that have the capacity to do this include many Trojans designed to steal confidential information from affected computers.

Tips for safe browsing

  • When making transactions on the Internet, check that the process is carried out through a secure server. Several characteristics identify these types of servers. One of these is the address that appears in the address bar in the browser, which starts with https://. What's more, a padlock or key icon will appear in the browser window. If the padlock is closed or the key is complete (not broken), the server is secure.
  • Another recommendable measure is to disable the cookies from the toolbar in the browser you are using. Although they must be enabled in order to access some web pages, they can be enabled temporarily. Even though it may be tiresome enabling and disabling the cookies, it can prevent a lot of serious problems.
  • To avoid falling victim to phishing scams, make sure that the page you are visiting is legitimate. To do this, copy the URL of the web site you want to visit and paste it in the address bar of the browser.
  • It is also advisable to identify and monitor the Java Applets and JavaScripts on the system to avoid any nasty surprises.
  • Raise the security zone in the browser to 'medium' or 'high'. This can be done from the toolbar in the browser you are using.
  • Finally, make sure that you have a reliable antivirus installed, which is updated at least once a day. This will prevent malicious code from slipping into your computer while you are browsing the Internet.