Being smart when you go online can protect both your computer and your finances. While many viruses just slow your computer down, others actively work to steal your credit card numbers and banking logins. One of the most important steps you can take is to secure your web browser. Here's what you need to do.
Turn On Automatic Updates
When new online threats emerge, programmers work around the clock to update browsers to combat the new threats. While having something automatically download to your computer can seem scary, you want to have the most up-to-date security features.
If you don't have automatic updates turned on, you might:
- Forget to check for updates
- Skip an update when you want to get online right now
- Have the update rendered useless because you already downloaded a virus
Even if you prefer manual updates for other programs, your browser needs automatic updates.
Use Anti-Virus Software
Even the most up-to-date browser can't stop all threats. You can still get viruses when you click on links or download files.
Anti-virus software provides an additional line of defense that keeps harmful programs from doing damage even if they make it on to your computer.
Be Smart About What You Do Online
Most viruses and malicious programs come from disreputable websites. Just as you would in the real world, always be aware of your surroundings when you're online.
Don't download files unless you know they're from a trusted source. Before you click on a link, use your mouse to hover over it and look at the bottom of your browser to see where it will take you.
If you have any doubts about a website, leave it and use a search engine to find third-party reviews about it.
Always Click Don't Allow
Some websites request to use special features in order to fully use the site. These include:
If you see a popup asking for access to something, always click no. While these requests aren't always malicious, they do require you to reduce your security settings. This could leave you vulnerable to threats from other websites.
Unless you need access to advanced features for work or school, there is minimal advantage to activating these features.
Watch Out for Impostor Websites
There are several ways websites can be faked. You might click a link you think is to a known website but isn't, or you might accidentally type in the wrong URL.
For example, a scam email might appear to come from your credit union. If you click on a link inside the email and try to log in to your account, the identity thieves now have your password.
To avoid impostor websites, take the following precautions.
- Don't click links in emails or other websites directing you to secure websites. Instead, go to the website directly by entering the URL or using a trusted search engine.
- Look for security icons. Trusted websites often have a lock or green icon next to the address bar in your browser. Untrusted websites have no icon or a red warning icon.
- Follow your instincts. Does the website appear as professional as you'd expect? If the design looks different, are you sure you're on the right website?
- If you're in doubt, you can call and ask. While doing everything online is convenient, you'll be in for a much larger inconvenience if your identity is stolen. Use the contact number from your last account statement or another trusted source (not the number on the potentially fake website) to verify whether you're at the right URL.
Increase Your Knowledge
Technology is always changing, so the best way to stay safe online is to be a well-informed consumer. The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team is an excellent source of current computer security information for your personal and business needs.