However, there are a number of risks associated with going online. These result from either visiting malicious websites or inadvertent disclosure of personal information.
The risks of visiting malicious, criminal or inappropriate websites include:
When you use the internet, your browser (for example Internet Explorer, Opera, Chrome, Safari or Firefox) keeps a record of which sites you have visted in its 'history'.
When you use the internet, the websites you visit are visible to your Internet Service Provider, who will record details of your internet usage in accordance with legal requirements.
Use the Internet Safely
It is very easy to clone a real website and does not take a skilled developer long to produce a very professional-looking, but malicious site.
Being wary of malicious, criminal or inappropriate websites:
Before entering private information such as passwords or credit card details on a website, you can ensure that the link is secure in two ways:
The above indicate that the website owners have a digital certificate that has been issued by a trusted third party, such as VeriSign or Thawte, which indicates that the information transmitted online from that website has been encrypted and protected from being intercepted and stolen by third parties. In other words, the communication between you and the site owner is secure, however a certificate is no guarantee that the site owner is the organisation or person you think you are communicating with ... you need to carefully check the web page address to confirm authenticity.
When using websites that you do not know, look for an Extended Validation (or EV-SSL) certificate, which indicates that the issuing authority has conducted thorough checks into the website owner. The type of certificate held can be determined by clicking the padlock symbol in the browser frame which will launch a pop-up containing the details.
Do also note that the padlock symbol does not indicate the merchant’s business ethics or IT security.
Cookies are files on your computer, smartphone or tablet that websites use to store information about you between sessions. Most of the time they are innocuous – carrying out tasks such as keeping track of your username so that you don't have to log into a website every time you visit it, and storing your usage preferences. However, some are used to track your browsing habits so that they can target advertising at you, or by criminals to build a profile of your interests and activities with a view to fraud.
Safe Use of Browsers
The most common internet browsers enable you to manage your settings such as allowing and blocking selected websites, blocking pop ups and browsing in private. Respective browsers will tell you to do this in slightly different ways, so we recommend that you visit the security and privacy section of their websites, or the help area of the browsers themselves:
Some browsers also have the ability to identify fraudulent websites by default.
Always ensure that you are running the latest version of your chosen browser that your operating system will support. Also, be sure to download and install the latest updates.
It is important to remember that turning on the private browsing setting or deleting your browsing history will only prevent other people using your computer from seeing which sites you have visited. Your internet service provider, search engine, law enforcement agencies and possibly (if browsing at work) your employer, will still be able to see which sites you have visited or keywords you have searched for.
Always remember to log out of a secure website when you have completed your transaction, and before you close the browser. Closing the browser does not necessarily log you out.
Ensure you have effective and updated antivirus/antispyware software and firewall running before you go online.
What to do if you Encounter Illegal Material
Viruses & Spyware
A basic understanding of computer viruses and spyware.
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Preventing Identity Theft
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What a firewall is, and how it protects your computer.
Searching the Internet
Search the Internet safely with our simple advice.
Spam & Scam Emails
A few simple rules about dealing with spam and scam emails.
How do you know that a QR code is safe? Find out here.