What does safe online browsing look like?

We all want internet. Actually, these days, we all pretty much need internet. Like we need water, gas or electricity.

But what exactly are we allowing into our homes? Unlike utility lines into the home, the internet is not an easily managed or transparent flow of information. Nor is it anywhere near as easy to regulate.

Critically, any internet leaks could be leaking your sensitive personal information out of the home, as much as they could be leaking dangerous content into your home.

But the real problem is you can’t detect online threats and leaks by screwing a detector into your kitchen wall.

So keeping the family safe means getting the right information when making decisions on your family’s internet security. Which is not always as easy as it should be.

Luckily this is all catching on and some companies are getting more on board with creating the right level of public awareness.

Importantly this also includes the providers of the internet themselves. Virgin Media, for example, has started to recommend two levels of parental control. One for the home, called Web Safe, and the other for the outside world, called F-Secure.

Initiatives like Switched on Families means that internet security is finally getting the front and centre attention it needs in today’s tech-heavy world.

Good internet security has two levels

There are two levels of online surfing protection you need to be wary of. The first threat can come from the network hub you are connecting to in order to source your internet (such as home or public Wi-Fi). The second threat comes from the kinds of websites you visit.

Luckily, Virgin Media accounts can now freely opt into Web Safe, which will affect any devices connected to it. This allows vital parental control and security at the source of your home internet. It is highly recommended for families.

So, before we go into the basics of what to look out for on the high-seas of the public internet, let’s have a run-through of what good Wi-Fi safety looks like.

Public versus household Wi-Fi guarding

Public Wi-Fi can be dangerous because you are connecting to a network that you can’t control settings for. So in this case the threat is not necessarily from the internet itself, instead the threat comes from those sharing the same local network.

Connecting to some Wi-Fi hotspots can mean nefarious hackers can access your mobile device and, therefore, your details. And they probably won’t even need a password.

When you connect to a network you are usually asked to select the type of network it is. If you are connecting to a public hub then always go for the ‘public’ auto-settings. Or you can change or double check your network settings manually to ensure you are not sharing publicly over a network.

Also, be aware that some W-Fi hotspots are faked – generally only in busy places with lots of naive foot traffic seeking easy, quick internet. Check the hotspot actually has free Wi-Fi and make sure to check the hotspot’s name properly.

For extra safety outside of the home, you can try a VPN (virtual private network). Research this topic further and take it into consideration. A good VPN to look at is Private Internet Access, which is usually rated quite highly.

However, your home Wi-Fi network is just as dangerous as a public one if you don’t secure it properly. Home networks need to have their Wi-Fi hubs secured with good passwords. And don’t have it anywhere someone can physically jack-in with a network cable either.

Importantly, if you’ve just set up a new Wi-Fi hub then you need to reset the password – a lot of these have the same ‘00000’ password when out of the box. And potential hackers know this. So change it.

Check the settings and instructions for your Wi-Fi hub for how to reset the password.

Checking a website’s security

Website security has come a long way. The older HTTP is a kind of wild west, where anyone can get their website up. Whereas, websites on the new HTTPS (the ‘S’ here is for secure) need to have certificates bought from a CA (certificate authority). Meaning HTTPS is a much safer place for your internet browsing. In basic terms, it means your levels of encryption are doubled.

Now, the older HTTP is not completely unsafe, but it is somewhere you need to be more careful. Don’t take drinks from strangers in HTTP saloons, and don’t buy any of those miracle cure ointments from hicks on HTTP.

Here is a quick check list for safe internet security:

  1. Never give banking details, for example for shopping, or any personal details over the old HTTP unless it is with a service or company your trust explicitly.
  2. Make sure your HTTPS sites have the secure green lock next to them in the address bar like this: Image of green lock showing a secure internet connection
  3. If your browser gives you a warning on an HTTPS site, stating that certificates do not match, then don’t use it. If you must, then don’t do it in a way that hands over your details.
  4. Keep your firewall on.
  5. Don’t do any unnecessary clicking. Avoid clickbait – rather search for that topic separately. Clicking on a bad link on a website is just as bad as clicking on a bad link in a phishing email.
  6. Check out this infographic for an internet security check-list.

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