‘Surf’ Internet Safely

Last updated on September 16th, 2019

Online Security is a branch of computer security specifically related to Internet which includes browser security but also network security, while operating system security is included at a more general level.

Browser security is where internet browsers are protected from malware like spyware and phishing which can compromise user security while browsing the internet.

The Risks of Using Internet

The risks of visiting malicious, criminal or inappropriate websites include:

  • Viruses and spyware (collectively known as malware).
  • Phishing, designed to obtain your personal and/or financial information and possibly steal your identity.
  • Fraud, from fake shopping, banking, charity, dating, social networking, gaming, gambling and other websites.
  • Copyright infringement – copying or downloading copyright protected software, videos, music, photos or documents.
  • Exposure to unexpected inappropriate content.
  • When you use the internet, 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.

Precautions to Take While Using Internet

Here are the main precautions to take before accessing Internet…

  • 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.
  • Ensure you have effective and updated anti-virus/anti-spyware software and firewall running before you go online. – see section Choosing anti-virus/anti-spyware Software

To prevent unauthorised access to your personal details or to avoid fraudulent websites…

  • 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.
  • Check for presence of an address, phone number and/or email contact – often indications that the website is genuine. If in doubt, send an email or call to establish authenticity.
  • Check that the website’s address seems to be genuine by looking for subtle misspellings, extra words, characters or numbers or a completely different name from that you would expect the business to have.
  • If there is NO padlock in the browser window or ‘https://’ at the beginning of the web address to signify that it is using a secure link, do not enter personal information on the site.
  • Websites which request more personal information than you would normally expect to give, such as user name, password or other security details IN FULL, are probably malicious.
  • Avoid ‘pharming’ by checking the address in your browser's address bar after you arrive at a website to make sure it matches the address you typed. This will prevent you ending up at a fake site even though you entered the address for the authentic one. This can occur due to browser malware which redirects a user to a fraudulent website.
  • Always get professional advice before making investment decisions. Sites that hype investments for fast or high return – whether in shares or alleged rarities like old wine, whisky or property – are often fraudulent.

Above Risks and Precautions taken from:
https://www.getsafeonline.org/protecting-your-computer/safe-internet-use/

Cookies

Cookies are stored on your computer, smartphone or tablet, by websites to store information about your browsing habits during sessions. Most of the time they are innocuous – where they keep track of your username and usage preferences - (username is stored so that you don't have to log into a website every time you visit it). However, some are used to track sites you visit 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.

As these cookies usually store relevant information to provide a seamless user experience on a website, some websites will not work if you block cookies completely. So, rather than setting your browser to block them, an alternative solution is to use an add-on like Privacy Badger (available for Chrome or Firefox) or Stealth Mode (available for Chrome), to block tracking cookies. See section Privacy and security Add-ons for more details.

Reviewing Your Google Account

PC Tutor Note: I recorded the steps below when I reviewed my own Google Account Privacy Settings (June 2018). As I am an experienced computer user, I can hopefully demonstrate good practice when making these changes.

Getting Started

To get started with reviewing your Google Account, visit My Account, which takes you to a dashboard with sections for Sign-in & Security, Personal info & Privacy, and Account Preferences.

Your personal info

The first section to check is ‘Your personal info’ where you can manage this basic information – your name, email and phone number – to help others find you on Google products like Hangouts, Gmail and Maps, and make it easier for others to get in touch. The About me section is particularly important as it controls what people see about you across the Google products.

The next step is to perform a Privacy Checkup and Security Checkup.

Perform a Security Checkup

When you click Security Checkup, a pop-up will show the following info:

  • Your devices
  • Third-party access
  • Recent security activity
  • 2-Step Verification (whether it's on or not).

Google Security Checkup

Any items marked with a yellow warning exclamation circle should get a once over. For example, if you see devices you no longer use listed under ‘Your Devices’, remove them. Third-party access will list apps and services that have access to your Google data - some of which could be problematic.

See this article for more details…
https://www.pcmag.com/article/360238/how-to-manage-your-google-privacy-settings

Performing a Privacy Check-up

A Privacy Check-up lets you review important settings that determine what data is stored by Google and how they use data they hold.

Google Activity Control: Web & App Activity

If you turn this setting on, Google will save your searches and other Google activity to your Google Account. You can also choose to save which apps you use, your Chrome history and which sites you visit on the web.

Privacy Set-up > Web & App Activity > Activity Controls

What is effect of Pausing Web & App Activity?

  • Pausing Web & App Activity may limit or disable more personalised experiences across Google services.
  • Pausing this setting doesn't delete any of your past data. You can see or delete your data and more at myactivity.google.com.

Click on above link to take you to My Activity page and select Delete activity by as shown in screenshot below…

PC Tutor Note: As the data stored can be somewhat personal e.g searching for a suspected health condition, I suggest that that this setting is turned off and all past activity deleted. Before you do, be aware that this setting also affects what adverts you see while browsing, as they are personalised using your Web activity – see section Make ads more relevant to you

For Delete by date value above, select All time

Google Activity Control: Location History

Google stores your location (if you have location tracking turned on) every time you turn on your phone. You can see a timeline of where you’ve been from the very first day you started using Google on your phone.

Click on this link to see your own data: google.com/maps/timeline?

Here is a map of every place I have been to since starting using Google on my Android phone about two years ago. You can see the time of day that I was in each location and how long it took me to get to that location from my previous one.

Pausing Location History?

Turing off this setting may limit or disable personalised experiences across Google services. For example, you may not see recommendations based on places you've visited or helpful tips about your commute.

This setting does not affect other location services on your device, like Google Location Services and Find My Device.

Some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other Google services, like Search and Maps.

Pausing this setting doesn't delete any of your past data. You can see or delete your data and more at maps.google.com/timeline

PC Tutor Note: Although this setting can allow location data to be stored about a persons’ daily travels, I suggest that that this setting is left ON, as it can be convenient when travelling to get location specific search results.

Google Activity Control: Device Information

The Device Information setting saves a copy of some information from your phone or tablet, including:

  • Contacts
  • Calendars
  • Apps
  • Music
  • Information about the device, like battery level

This information is private. You can only see it when you're signed in to your Google Account.

PC Tutor Note: As the data stored is key user information, I suggest that this setting is left ON

Google Activity Control: Voice and Audio

When you use voice commands (such as 'Ok Google') or touch the microphone icon, Google saves your voice and accompanying audio.

PC Tutor Note: This setting is of low importance, so it’s probably best to leave ON

Google Activity Control: Youtube Search History

This can help make future searches faster and improve recommendations in YouTube and other Google services.

PC Tutor Note: This setting is of low importance, so it’s probably best to leave ON

Google Activity Control: Youtube Watch History

This can help make your recently watched videos easier to find and improve recommendations in YouTube and other Google services.

PC Tutor Note: This setting is of low importance, so it’s probably best to leave ON

Manage what you share on YouTube

Choose who can see your YouTube videos, likes and subscriptions, and decide where you share them.

Manage your Google Photos settings

Choose whether you want to remove geolocation from your photos when you share them by link.

Help people connect with you

Let people with your phone number find and connect with you on Google services, such as video chats.

You can make it easy for people who have your phone number to get in touch with you across Google services. For example, friends can send you a message or photo without having your email address or other contact information.

If this setting is off, people might not be able to use your phone number to find your name, photo, or other information you've made visible.

Choose what Google+ profile information you share with others

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Make ads more relevant to you

You can change the types of ads you see from Google when you adjust your interests, age and gender or opt-out of ads based on your interests. Please note that you will still see ads after opting out – they’ll just be less relevant.

Remember, Google makes the majority of its money by showing you ads in search results and on Gmail, YouTube, and Google Maps (plus elsewhere across the internet). You're not going to turn them off here—for that, you need an ad-blocker program like Adblock Plus—all you can do here is limit how much you are targeted.

PC Tutor Note: If you are NOT using an AD Blocker as mentioned above, it is probably best to leave this setting ON. Because, if you must see adverts while browsing, it is better that they are personalised to some extent. But even with an Ad Blocker in use, it will have to be disabled for some websites to work properly. The bottom line is that viewing ads is unavoidable when browsing the internet.

Internet Privacy Protection Levels

There are 5 levels of Internet Privacy and Security which should be set-up on your home computer to maximise your protection online:

  1. Set browser standard privacy features.
  2. Install most effective privacy and security add-ons to your browser.
  3. Configure your Anti-virus and check it includes a web and email shield.
  4. Make sure you have a Firewall active at all times.

If you use your laptop computer in public WIFI areas then…

  1. Install a VPN like CyberGhost

Browser Privacy Features

The most common internet browsers enable you to manage your privacy settings such as allowing and blocking selected websites, blocking pop ups and browsing in private. All popular browsers will allow 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.

See the following link to maximise Firefox Browser privacy.
http://www.howtogeek.com/102032/how-to-optimize-mozilla-firefox-for-maximum-privacy/

See the following link to maximise Chrome Browser privacy.
http://www.howtogeek.com/100361/how-to-optimize-google-chrome-for-maximum-privacy/

Privacy and security Add-ons

Privacy Badger (Firefox & Chrome)

Privacy Badger blocks spying ads and invisible trackers. It ensures that companies can't track your browsing without your consent.

Disconnect (Firefox & Chrome)

Disconnect is an add-on that blocks web trackers from gathering your personal information. Because it blocks tracking elements from over 2,000 sources, Disconnect claims to speed up page loading by upwards of 27%.

HTTPS Everywhere (Firefox & Chrome)

HTTPS is a more secure web-browsing protocol that encrypts all of the web data that’s transmitted between the server and your browser. So even if someone intercepts your connection, they won’t be able to read the data. Even if a particular web page doesn’t support encryption, the add-on can get around it by rewriting the requests behind the scenes.

https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/how-do-i-tell-if-my-connection-is-secure

Adguard AdBlocker (Firefox & Chrome)

This top-rated extension does a nice job of removing ads, even in YouTube and other videos, without hindering browser performance. The extension offers plenty of customizable settings, plus phishing and malware protection. The developer also claims that Adguard works even on sites that use anti-ad-blocking scripts.

Stealth Mode (Chrome)

From the developer of Adguard AdBlocker, Stealth Mode gets equally high marks from reviewers. The extension blocks third-party cookies and prevents online trackers from collecting information about you.

See more at:-
http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/completely-secure-11-must-have-firefox-addons-security/

Check that Anti-virus Web and Mail Shield are Switched On

Within Avast Internet Security suite, make sure that the Web and Mail Shield option on the Active Protection screen are switched ON.

Switch on Firewall

Within Windows 10, there is a firewall built in which will provide standard protection against threats. For instructions on how to turn it on, check out the link below :-

http://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch000551.htm

While with Avast Internet Security, the Firewall can be turned on also on the Active Protection Screen as shown above.

Note: Only one firewall can be switched on at any time so it is preferable to use the firewall included within your anti-virus suite as it would offer a higher level of security.

Definition: Firewall - A firewall allows or blocks traffic into and out of a private network or the user's computer. Firewalls may also detect outbound traffic to guard against spyware, which could be sending your surfing habits to a website.

 

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