Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Security for Me: Internet Surfing

One of the biggest problems today is to surf the Internet safely. Contrary to some may think, Internet surfing is not safe unless you personally take care of some things.

Why it is unsafe? Because you can access by mistake a site that has malicious intents and that use vulnerabilities in your browser to install on your computer some viruses or spyware, to crash your system completely or to steal your credit card information or other personal data.

So you need to make it safe...

  • First: always use the latest version of your browser. Internet Explorer is currently at version 7 for Windows XP and newer and it is still at version 6 for Windows 2000 and lower. However that one is safe too. Firefox updates more often, current version at the date of this post is Other browsers also update regularly, so check their vendor sites.
  • Second: always install the patches for your browser and you operating system. While browser patches are obvious in the sense that they fix problems with your browser, the operating system patches are not so obvious. In short, it may not be a problem with your browser at all, but a problem in your system that can be exploited via your browser.
  • Third: install an anti-spyware and an antivirus. See my article regarding those issues at http://lusutheghost.blogspot.com/2007/11/security-for-me-antivirus-programs.html
  • Forth: keep away of strange or suspicious sites. Your browser usually notifies you that a site is malicious and blocks it by default. Please read carefully what your browser is reporting before continuing. Some antispyware and antivirus software may also block some sites. Take their advice and leave that site immediately. However if the antivirus kicks in, the site is automatically blocked with no chance to continue on it, which is a good thing.

There is the myth that Internet Explorer is not as safe as Firefox. Unfortunately this is exactly backwards (but things are improving). Opera is in fact the fastest and the most secure Internet browser. Don't take my word on it (as some my say that I am a Microsoft fan...), take what experts are saying. A good article, with quality and reliable sources is http://mywebpages.comcast.net/SupportCD/FirefoxMyths.html

Another thing is to be very, very, careful when entering your credentials (passwords, credit card details etc.) in forms on various sites. Please double check the site and its intent before proceeding. There are lots of legitimate sites that for example process your credit cards in order to sell you something online, and this is good. But there are even more sites that pretend to sell you something (like man potency pills, "original" software or quality watch replicas at incredible low prices) but in fact they simply steal your information so they can empty your account. No legitimate site will ask your credit card pin code! If you encounter such site leave immediately!

Also some banks offer online banking services where you have to authenticate with either a security device (one time code generators), with security certificates or with one time scratch codes. The later are not so secure as some sites may trick you in providing the next 10 codes in order to "verify your identity". Big mistake to provide those!

Do you have any other tips? Please feel free to comment and share with everyone!


Mike said...

I started reading about blog and found it is nice to see people discussing issues but some blogs like on http://whatsonweb.blogspot.com does not provide correct information.

Is there any law to control that ???

Lusu said...

Not really. Unless there is something illegal there is nothing that can be done. Anyone can say anything, it is up to you to decide what is correct and what is not.