Tips for a Safer Web Experience

  1. Make sure you are using an antivirus program and that it is up to date. Also make sure that regular scans are being performed.  A list of Microsoft approved antivirus companies can be found here: www.microsoft.com/windows/antivirus-partners/windows-7.aspx
  1. Make sure all Windows updates are up to date.  Also if you use Microsoft Office or other Microsoft products you should go to the Microsoft update site (http://update.microsoft.com/). If you go to the Microsoft update site and do updates once, it will then allow windows updates to handle your Microsoft updates.
  1. Update Adobe products.  These include Adobe PDF reader (http://get.adobe.com/reader/), Adobe Flash Player (http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/), Adobe AIR (http://get.adobe.com/air/), and Adobe Shockwave Player (http://get.adobe.com/shockwave/). You may have other Adobe product installed. 
  1. Disable or remove Java, or at a minimum ensure you are using the latest version.  Check if you are using the latest version here: www.java.com/verify/. If you use multiple web browsers (Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, etc...) you may need to update them separately.
  1. Make sure all other software is up to date. Always use the latest stable version of software.  Updates usually include security fixes or enhanced protection. Software should only be installed if made by a reputable company.
  1. Turn on your web browsers pop up blocker, and only enable pop up’s from trusted websites.
  1. Be alert and beware of suspicious emails. Phishing emails often come from a generic name/email address like “Accounts Payable” or “Customer Service”. Email addresses will not use the correct domain, but will look correct at first glance (ex. Instead of xyz.com a fake domain might be xyzcorporation.com). Grammar and spelling mistakes in the email message are also red flags. Fraudsters often prey on people’s sense of urgency by threatening action, such as taking away account access, if you do not comply.
  1. When installing applications do not simply click next without reading each page.  Most free programs install other programs such as new browsers, toolbars, or other unwanted programs and most reputable companies will allow you to uncheck the option to install the additional software.  Adobe products are usually bundled with Google's Chrome browser and Java is bundled with the Ask toolbar.  If the software does not allow you to uncheck the additional software you may want to rethink whether you want to install that software at all.
  1. Do not click on emails unless you know who they are from AND that it is a legitimate email from your contact.  Newer viruses grab your contact lists and send a link to everyone on the list.  This makes the email appear to be from a friend or family member.  If you are not expecting an email with a link from a contact, check with them before opening it. These email often say you could win something, that they need your help, or to see something funny/amazing.
  1. If you receive a message (via email, instant message, text message, pop up, etc.) requesting that you contact your financial institution or service provider, verify that the phone number provided is valid by checking their website or one of your financial statements, thus confirming the phone number is legitimate before calling.
  1. Do not reply to emails from unrecognized senders and do not reply to emails that request financial information, even if it appears to be from a trusted source. Financial institutions or service providers will not contact you via email and request personal information.

 

  1. Malicious websites are now asking people to update software that they already have (Adobe/Java especially as they are widely used).  If you are unsure, you should close the window and go to the website directly to do the update. These sites will appear to install legitimate software when in fact they are not.
  1. Only enter sensitive data into secure websites. In order for a website to be secure, it must begin with https:// and there should be an icon of a lock in the URL field of your browser. However, it does not mean it is safe to click on a link in an email that starts with https:// as the link could direct you to a non-secure, malicious website.
  1. Do not use Windows with an administrator account as your regular account. More information can be found here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/Why-use-a-standard-user-account-instead-of-an-administrator-account and is applicable to all newer versions of Windows.
  1. If you are unsure about a website you can use Norton's Safe Web (http://safeweb.norton.com/) to see their rating.  Although this site provides guidance on the safety of numerous sites, it is not 100% accurate as new malicious sites are easily created. If you still do not trust it, do not go to the site.
  1. Use a different password on all your logins.  That way if a website's information is compromised a hacker would not have access to all of your sites. By using the same password an attacker could steal your identity. Even better would be to use a randomly generated password.  Programs such as LastPass (https://lastpass.com/) or KeePass (http://keepass.info/) will allow you to securely store your password.
  1.   Use a different web browser for highly confidential information or purchases. For example, if you use Internet Explorer for your day to day browsing you may want to use Mozilla Firefox to check your online banking or making online purchases. 
  1. Advanced computer users may want to use a "live cd" for confidential sites.  Whether or not Linux is safer to use then newer versions of Windows is open for debate, one thing is for sure, an up to date "live CD" is always in a good known configuration. Ubuntu is a well know Linux version that closely resembles the Windows interface and can be found here: www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop/try-ubuntu-before-you-install.  Caution should be taken to ensure you are running the CD as a "live CD" and not installing it on your hard drive.   You could erase your Windows operating system along with all your files.
  1. Always Always Always remember that if it is free, cheaper than anywhere else, or promises unbelievable results; it is more likely to be a scam or will provide unwanted software.

Before using any of the above tips, see our Third Party Software Disclaimer

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