Given the importance of the internet in our lives these days, it’s perhaps surprising that we don’t encounter more dangers and threats online. Annual cybercrime statistics might make depressing reading, but they’re impressively low in number considering the proliferation of malware and viruses in circulation. The majority of emails are classed as spam, while some top-level domains are so heavily associated with dubious activities that 100 per cent of registered websites are regarded as suspect in some way.
You’ll rarely see .gq or .men domains in search results because Google and Bing recognise the threats these TLDs pose to their users. Indeed, search engines work hard to verify the safety and authenticity of sites listed in their results. One such tool involves HTTPS certification, where websites are given a coveted SSL certificate after demonstrating traffic to and from their servers is encrypted. It’s inadvisable to make an ecommerce transaction from any site without HTTPS accreditation; web browsers like Google Chrome warn users against visiting insecure sites, let alone making purchases.
Search engine results represent one of the easiest paths to safe web browsing. However, there’s a great deal more we can do to keep internet-enabled devices out of harm’s way. These are some of the key techniques for safe web browsing:
1. Install or deploy technological solutions.
There are various ways to enjoy safe web browsing without undue risk, starting with a firewall. Some ISPs offer these through their routers, which should ideally have default passwords replaced by complex alphanumeric strings. Firewalls can also be manually installed to filter out threats, protecting connections against cyber-attacks. Antivirus software should be installed and given permission to scan email attachments while monitoring web surfing.
2. Use bookmarks, rather than manually typing in domain names.
Some malicious websites adopt URLs similar to well-known addresses, hoping to ensnare people who’ve incorrectly typed a domain into their browser. Maximise safe web browsing by saving regularly visited web addresses in a Bookmarks or Favourites folder. We’d recommend adding a password reminder after the website name, to simplify logins. Speaking of which…
3. Log out of websites.
It’s rarely advisable to leave websites logged in. Children might run amok with an unguarded Amazon account, especially as the Pay Now button removes any need for card data or password confirmation. Colleagues could also snoop through a dating website or webmail account left unguarded on a work PC. And anyone using a shared computer in a public area should log out of every website they visit, to prevent subsequent users discovering what they were up to.
4. Avoid sending sensitive data over insecure networks.
This builds on the last point. Your local pub might offer free customer WiFi, but it’s unlikely to be secure. Sending or receiving confidential (especially financial) data over an insecure network might allow someone at the next table to eavesdrop on it, harvesting your information before using it for fraud or theft. Your own broadband router is safer, but again, change administrator passwords to strengthen its security. Hardwire devices via Ethernet whenever possible, making it more difficult for third parties to spy on data being transmitted.
5. Don’t look for dubious content.
Devices frequently contract malware or viruses after their users have visited compromised websites or unsafe web browsing material. If you must look at conspiracy theory boards or view graphic adult content, do it through a secondary web browser without storing cookies or passwords. Be wary when clicking links from one unfamiliar site to another; “you won’t believe what” clickbait links and “you’re a winner!!!” adverts should always be avoided. Their contents never justify the risks incurred by visiting these spurious sites.