A Beginner’s Guide To: Internet Safety

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Today we’ll talk about some helpful tips to allow you to browse the Internet in a safe manner.

#1 – Online Threats

Information Security
Threats to your information can come in many forms. A threat is anything that can take advantage of a weakness on the system to then affect any data stored. This is more commonly known as malware. Malware on your system can lead to theft of your data, like bank details and personal files. It can lead to identity theft if the hacker gets access to a lot of personal data. Sometimes the hacker just wants to sabotage the system and stop it working all together. Here is a list of the most common ways a hacker would get access to your system:

Viruses
Viruses can duplicate themselves by attaching themselves to a program or file on the host computer like documents and videos. If the user them sends the file to somebody else, then the virus is sent too. A virus is normally used to break the system open to then be vulnerable to attack.

Worms
A worm is like a virus but does not need to be attached to a file. They will duplicate themselves to take up space on a system, slowing it down and making it near unusable. Worms can travel through a network too, making all systems connected to the network vulnerable.

Trojans
A trojan is the most dangerous type of malware. They are usually concealed within a program or file, making in invisible until it is opened or executed. Once it is executed, it will leave the system open for attack. The hacker can easily gain access to all information stored on the system via a backdoor gateway the trojan leaves. A trojan is usually undetectable without good anti-virus software installed.

Adware
One of the more common types of threat online. They are not necessarily malicious but can be a big annoyance. Adware usually comes packaged in with other programs you install. They then will display adverts related to the product or monitor your activity and display relevant adverts. It’s the adverts that are clicked on that could be a threat to your system as it could direct you to a suspicious website with will then download more software. It can also direct to website that looks similar to your bank’s website or any social media. Any information then entered, if you try to log in, could be stolen!

Ransomware
This virus can be extremely scary if acquired. It can come in many different types, showing different messages. Usually, upon turning the system on, you will be greeted with a message saying all your files have been encrypted or stolen. If you don’t pay the required amount, either your files will be deleted or shared to all your friends and family. It can also say the police that have locked the system and you will have to pay for it to be unlocked. The virus usually gives you a time limit before your data is affected, to pressure you into paying faster. The hacker can also have footage from a webcam connected to indicate you have been recorded watching some things that might be embarrassing if shared.

Scareware
This normally comes disguised as an antivirus package or system clean up tool. The program will indicate you have hundreds of errors on the system or drivers need installing. Some of the programs will install malicious software if ran to “fix” the system. Other programs will tell you to pay for the full version of the program to “fix” the errors. Most of the time the programs don’t do anything apart from take your money!

User Safety
Another key to staying safe online is being aware of who you are talking to. Whether it’s though people on social media or strangers via email.

Companies Requesting Personal Information
Nearly all companies do not have access to any password or personal information. This is because passwords are encrypted. No company will ask you for a password or any personal data via email or phone. If you need to change a password, you can request a password reset.

Cyber Bullying/Harassment
Bullying online via messages is called cyber bullying. It occurs when people message you via social media to harass or upset you. The easiest way to stop with is to block the person or people contacting you. It is a criminal offence to harass somebody online so the police can be told if it ever happens.

Grooming
Grooming as an extremely dangerous threat for younger people online. An older person will usually disguise themselves as a young person to then contact a minor. They will build up a relationship with the person and try to eventually meet up or get them to send inappropriate pictures. The best way to combat with is to tell young people not to share any personal information with strangers online and don’t arrange meet ups with people they don’t know.

Catfishing
This is a lot like grooming but aimed towards older people. A person will disguise themselves as somebody they aren’t, to build a relationship with a person. This relationship is then used to exploit the person. It could be to get money out of them, or it could just be a cruel prank to get the victims hopes up.

#2 – Minimise Security Risks

Antivirus Packages
Be sure to have an anti-virus package and keep it up to date. Make sure your package also includes a scan for malware. If it doesn’t, there are plenty of free ones available that will only scan for malware along side your normal antivirus package. This will keep your system free from any potential threats that could steal your data!

Secure Passwords
Keep your passwords safe by not using something easy to guess such as your pets name or “password123”. Having a different password for all your accounts is perhaps the best way to keep your accounts safe. This way, if one of your passwords is stolen, the thief doesn’t have access to all your accounts. Most services these days have two-factor authentication. This means when you log into a new device, you will get a notification to your phone or email to ask for a code to then log in. Be sure to change your passwords around every six months. It may seem unnecessary, but this is the best way to keep your bank account safe.

Secure Websites
Web browsers will check if a website is secure and safe. On the address bar, to the left of the website address, it will have a padlock icon or say “secure”. This means the website has a valid security certificate and data inputted is secure. Another indication the website is secure is if the address starts with “https”. This is a secure form of “http”. If a website does not have a valid security certificate and does not begin with “https” be wary of entering any personal details.

#3 – Internet Laws

Copyright Law
The details of copyright law vary depending on the country. The general idea of the law is that the owner or creator of the work, whether it be music, art, videos or text, have complete rights to the work. If somebody decides to use the persons work, without permission for their own gain, the owner can then say they infringed their copyright. This means the owner can either tell the person to stop using the work or they can sue. Make sure you have permission to use any media you find online before distributing it yourself!
Licencing

When you buy a program (e.g. Windows) you are required to have a licence key. This key is used to prove you have acquired the product legally. The licence guidelines will usually tell you what you can do with the product. Usually the licence will indicate if you can distribute it, use it in a business setting or for personal use. This is also known as fair use. Going against these guidelines may get your licence revoked and possibly incur a fine.

Digital Rights
Your digital rights are basically your human rights while online. It narrows down to free speech while online and your privacy rights. Your data is the most valuable thing online. Companies will pay large amounts of money to see what websites you go on, how long you spend on them, what games you play and how much you spend online. Usually when you sign up to a website and agree to the terms and conditions, it will give that company the right to do as they please with the data they collect on you. Even if it is just sharing your email with other companies. It’s hard to sell when your digital rights are being violated as the laws and regulations surrounding it are not enough to protect you. The best way to protect your rights is to read terms and conditions before signing up to websites, this is the only way to tell what is happening with your data.

Example of Employer Guidelines when Online

Nearly all companies will have a set of guidelines to ensure everybody that uses their service, whether it be a customer or employee, as equal access to the service and keep the person safe. An example of a guideline for equal access is the use of alt text for the visually impaired. Alt text is used on websites so the author can type in a description of an image. When the viewer sees the image, the alt text will be read out to the viewer.

Taken From ‘Internet Security Guide‘ by Danny Gavillet.

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