Between razor-sharp reefs, marauding sharks and thundering waves, surfing can be a dangerous sport if you do not stick to a few basic rules. The internet is no different.
When shopping online, signing up for a newsletter, joining a club or blogging, at some point we have all provided personal information over the web, such as our home address, consumer habits or travel preferences. But this information can be misused:
• By the site that asked you to enter it;
• Or by someone who has hacked the site.
In addition to the explicitly requested data, information about you may be gathered from other sources, including:
- Your browsing history, which shows the sites you have visited and the products you looked at or bought;
- Your browsing environment, including where you connect from and your hardware and software.
The websites you visit can use this information according to their terms and conditions, which of course we all read attentively.
Criminals, meanwhile, try to steal information and use it unlawfully to make money, potentially resulting in damages for you. Phishing, exploiting vulnerabilities and Trojan horses are widely used ways of obtaining data.
Given these threats, you must do your best to safeguard your personal information online by following a few basic rules:
- Keep the information you supply over the internet to what is strictly required. For example, you have to provide your postal address for an online retailer but not for a video-on-demand site;
- Never have your browser remember your passwords.
It is important to properly manage the security of the browser on your home computer by using the appropriate security, privacy and confidentiality settings:
- Cookies are pieces of data that websites ask your browser to store. Delete them regularly or arrange for them to be deleted automatically when the browser closes;
- The browsing history is the list of all the locations you visited. You can usually say how long you want the history to be kept for or set it to be cleared automatically;
- The browser cache stores downloaded content. Clear it regularly;
- Form and autocomplete data are saved information that you have entered and want to use again. Remember to delete this information regularly or automatically.
Private browsing is a way to use the internet without leaving a trace or keeping any browsing data.
Your home computer’s browser, extensions, plugins and operating system should always be up to date. Ideally, set them to be updated automatically. You should also keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware current.
When shopping online, observe a few basic rules:
- Make payments through a known provider, such as a bank or specialist firm;
- Otherwise, make sure you are using a reputable website before entering your bank card number;
- A padlock in front of the URL indicates a secure connection and is a minimum requirement for online payments.
It is even more important to stick to these rules when dealing with work-related data. If you follow these rules, you make it harder for criminals to get personal or confidential information from you.
By avoiding the reefs and sharks, you can surf to your heart’s content!