Your computer was infected with malware and you were able to clean it up using many of the common sense approaches mentioned in my last blog. That is great news! However, you are still concerned that even with applying the protection you have, you may get infected with malware or people may see what and where you are browsing. This week I will talk about how can you protect yourself using more sophisticated techniques.
More Sophisticated Browsing Protection
Browsing in Privacy Mode: This method of protection is a double edged sword. “Private” or “InPrivate” browsing, used by Internet Explorer, Edge, Safari, Firefox and others (also called “Incognito” by Chrome), prevents your computer from locally storing your browsing history, temporary web pages (called web cache) and cookies. This information could be stolen if your computer gets compromised by a malicious program.
However, private browsing does not prevent your browsing activity from being recorded outside your computer. For example: You are using the Chrome browser and you have opened an Incognito browser window. You go to Google to perform a search and get the results you want and click on a link to open the desired web page. You surf for a bit and when you are done, you close the browser window. Since you used an Incognito window your browsing history, temporary web pages and new cookies are deleted from your local computer. Therefore, if someone accesses your computer they will not know where you have browsed and cannot trace your Internet activity. However, Google and your Internet Service Provider most likely have a record of where you visited, how long you were on those websites and any other browsing actions you have made while surfing. This information is available to law enforcement and legal agencies if warranted.
An important note: private browsing only impacts the local computer and is a “must do” on computers that are shared. If you are at a hotel and are using the shared computer in the Business Office, ALWAYS use Private browsing and make sure to close the browser window when you are done. Otherwise, the person accessing the computer right after you can potentially open the site you visited.
Secure Browsing Using HTTPS://: Today, most people simply enter the name of the site (i.e. bankofamerica.com) into the browser as opposed to the entire web address (i.e. http://www.bankofamerica.com). Now is the time to change your habit. To increase your browsing security, you should enter the entire web address but change the beginning from “HTTP” to “HTTPS.” The addition of the “S” in the address indicates all communication between your browser and the website are encrypted and cannot be read outside of the current communication. This is critical when you go to a website that requires the input some personal information (i.e. user name, password, credit card number, social security number).
Incorporated into HTTPS websites is a “padlock” icon in the address bar. If you see a padlock image in the content section of the webpage itself disregard it as the cybercriminal can easily add a graphic image to the website. As an extra precaution, you can click on the padlock icon to obtain the security certificate information about the website you are visiting. Make sure the certificate is current AND issued to the same company you are visiting.
To make this technique easier, depending on the browser you use, you may be able to install a browser extension that rewrites browser links to the HTTPS version of the website when possible. One such extension is called “HTTPS Everywhere” and is available for Chrome, Firefox, Firefox for Android and Opera.
Browsing Anonymously: If you really want to surf the Internet without leaving a trace there are such programs available. The most common is call “Tor” which funnels all your Internet traffic through a network of secure connections called virtual tunnels. This secure method of browsing is often used for web forums by rape and abuse victims as well as other highly sensitive website. I will not get into how to setup such a connection as it is beyond the scope of this blog. Please note that Tor will not protect from you going to a website and downloading a malicious program, but it will prevent others from seeing where you Internet surf and thereby prevent the gathering of critical personal data while you surf.
So, while surfing the Internet has been a massive shift in how society operates on a day-to-day basis, the Internet has also become a haven for cybercriminals who want to steal your personal information and take advantage of you. It is not only the responsibility of businesses to protect your data, but it is also your responsibility to surf the Internet wisely and securely. By taking many of the steps mentioned above you can decrease the chances your personal data will be stolen while not impacting the fun you have using the Internet.
For more information regarding secure Internet surfing or for other questions related to security and computing networks feel free to contact Reedy Creek Enterprise Solutions to start a conversation.