Safe online surfing
Be it looking for information on competitors, buying computers or looking up an address the Web is a great information resource. Unfortunately just as the Web has become an integral part of the way we work it has attracted criminals and others who intend to disrupt or damage its users..
Due to the complex technical nature of the internet and World Wide Web there are lots of opportunities for those intent on causing damage, stealing data, or stealing money from unsuspecting users. The good news is that there is a great deal users can do to protect themselves and reduce the chances of them falling victim to criminals.
We have covered computer viruses and data theft in the following guides. It is important to understand these issues at the same time as you learn how to surf the Web safely;
By surfing the Web in a safe way you will avoid problems to your computer systems.
Surfing the World Wide Web
In March 2008 there were over 100 billion active websites covering every possible subject and interest. This is the beauty of the Web, but also its Achilles heel as many websites have unsavoury and often illegal content that would shock most ordinary Web users. Powerful search engines such as Google allow us to quickly get to information we need but sometimes we come across unsavoury websites by mistake.
How can we deal with this?
We need to accept that the World Wide Web is not a friendly place to be in and treat it with caution. Much as you would not walk down a dark alley in a rough city centre at 3am you need to consciously avoid the areas of the Web that contain nasty content. You can do this by simply searching for business related items and tasks and not searching with any profane or dubious keywords.
That said, be aware that clever criminals can hijack seemingly innocent keywords and still direct you to nasty content so care is needed at all times.
The next step is to install and use an updated Web browser that has facilities to automatically protect your browsing experience. These browsers can be set to automatically detect sites that are behaving in a potentially dangerous way as well as block access to the majority of sites that deal in subjects such as online gambling and pornography.
These are the more popular browsers;
It is strongly suggested that you ensure your anti-virus provider installs anti-spyware and anti-phishing tools onto you PC as well as anti-virus files. This way these malware types can be tracked and prevented from downloading onto your PC. If you are using Windows XP this comes with its own firewall, so make sure this is switched on.
It is also possible to purchase products that automatically filter or otherwise prevent access to unsavoury sites. This may be useful if you employ members of staff and need to allow them access to the World Wide Web but prevent them going to sites unrelated to your business (this is called ‘Cyberslacking’). Remember, if you are monitoring what your staff are doing online you need to inform them of this or you may face legal problems.
The following providers of website filtering software may be useful;
Surfing and personal awareness
Some people find the supposed anonymity of the Web seducing and often act in ways which they wouldn’t in person. The reality is that when you explore the World Wide Web you are leaving a trail of evidence that is easy for those in the know to examine and track back to yourself, no matter what steps you take to remove evidence on your PC. To this end we all need to take care of our visits to the Web the same way we would when walking around a town or city. We have already avoided the dark alleys but maybe there are other places you should not visit?
Ultimately it is your business and livelihood that could be compromised by accidentally downloading malware or viruses. A good rule of thumb is to ensure your PC is fully protected and then simply avoid the rough areas of the Web and focus on your work activities. This way you are very unlikely to become a victim of Web based cybercrime.
If you do happen across what you consider to be illegal content on the Web then it can be reported via theInternet Watch Foundation
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About the author
The Business IT Guide Team
The Business IT Guide website provides entirely free, impartial content to help small businesses use IT. Areas covered include websites, selling online, marketing, security, IT skills, software, equipment and email.