Surfing the Internet can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for everyone in the family but just as you would take steps to protect everyone and everything in your home by making sure you lock the door and by not leaving valuables within easy reach of an opportunist thief, you also need to protect your computer from outside influences otherwise you leave it wide open to attack.
Out there on the information superhighway it is inevitable that at some point you will come across something that could put your computer or your privacy at risk and the frightening thing is, you might not even know about it. However, by being aware and putting a few simple measures in place, you can protect both your computer and your family.
When downloading anything at all from the Internet, which can include things like software, screensavers, music, videos, or when opening files sent to you by email, or even by visiting certain websites, your computer can be exposed to undesirable elements like spyware and adware as well as malicious viruses that can at best seriously impair your internet experience and slow down your connection, and at its worst, can permanently damage your hard drive and your wallet, not to mention your confidence in surfing.
So what can you do? First you need to protect your computer and limit the risk.
Protecting your computer
It is essential that you have some good anti-virus software installed on your computer. Viruses are becoming increasingly sophisticated and as new viruses come on the scene, the software has to be updated to make sure you are protected against the latest threats. The good news is that you can update most anti virus software automatically when you are online.
A firewall is excellent as it puts a barrier up between your computer and any opportunist hacker but you must remember that nothing by itself is totally safe, you need several lines of defence, which will make it much more difficult for anything to get in.
Whilst browsing the internet you can inadvertently download Spyware. Spyware does just what it says, it allows others to spy on what you are doing, what sites you visit, how long you are on for and can even record sensitive information like when you type passwords or your credit card information. This obviously invades your privacy and jeopardises the safety of your personal information. Sometimes companies use programmes to gather information on people’s surfing habits so that they can tailor their advertising to match people’s internet use. Although not always malicious, these types of programmes can slow you’re your connection and at the same time plague you with popup after popup and can even take over the way you access the Internet by changing the home page so that each time you open your browser it takes you to where they want you to go. You can prevent this with software that can detect and remove Spyware and Adware from your system.
Another way to protect your computer is to make sure the Internet security settings are set to “high” or “medium”. Sometimes it is necessary to download software so be careful when downloading anything and make sure you read all the supporting literature and privacy statements so that you can decide if their policies are ethical and whether you want to continue.
Children are particularly vulnerable when online as they may not understand the risks involved but as the Internet is now a major part of life in the 21st Century, it is important that they are able to surf without fear and taking the appropriate action can protect them too.
Protecting your family
One major concern these days is that children can be exposed to undesirable content as well as dubious characters that can lurk online in for example, chat rooms and online interactive games. You can protect your children by following a few simple rules:
Make sure that when your child has access to the Internet there are other people around, so perhaps you could have the computer in a family room
You could consider software that allows you to monitor your child’s internet use
Encourage your child to discuss their Internet experience with you and take an active interest in what they are doing online
You can also make use of filters and settings on your computer to limit what your child is able to do online and to restrict what information they can see and what can be passed on
Most importantly, you need to educate your child about responsible Internet use, the risks involved and why they should never give out any personal information
A final word
One thing that software and settings can’t protect you against is you and the choices you make. Complacency about Internet security can be costly and although nothing is 100% safe, because there are those out there who are constantly devising new and more sophisticated techniques to get past the defences, the good news is that by checking the security settings on your computer, keeping your anti virus software up to date, and by staying aware, you can drastically reduce the chance of anyone getting access to your files or invading your privacy and you and your family can carry on surfing with confidence.