In the last two articles, I discussed ways to protect your devices and secure your web browsing. In addition to these suggestions, there are a number of things you can do, on an everyday basis, to keep yourself safe on the Internet. Below are 17 good Internet browsing habits to employ on an everyday basis.
- Back-up your files to an external drive or the cloud – this allows you to retrieve your information, programs, etc. in case your device is lost/stolen or you have some kind of issue with your device. I use an external drive from Seagate, which holds 1 TB of data. I back up my Mac, through Time Machine, which is the built-in back up feature of OS X (Apple’s operating system for the Mac). It takes no more than a couple of minutes to do.
- Run frequent scans for your security software (e.g. antivirus) – especially when you are using your device a lot on unsecured networks, it helps to know that your device is clean
- Clear your cookies and your Internet history on a frequent basis. Cookies are small files that websites put on your device to know who you are when you return, allow you to log-in the next time without username and password or just to track your browsing habits – none of which you really need. Yes, you’ll have to input your username and password the next time; however, that’s not such a big deal. Clearing these items can speed up your Internet browsing.
- When taking photos, consider turning off the camera’s GPS feature that shows where your photo was taken. Sometimes, when you’re traveling you might want it turned on to remind you where the photo was taken; however, when you’re around your home, you might want it turned off especially when taking and posting photos of your kids. When you post a photo where the GPS was turned on, anyone can determine where the photo was taken – your home, your child’s school, etc. This is not information you want to post with the photo.
- Only download apps from a known and trusted source
- Apple devices can only download apps from The App Store unless you jailbreak your device which is not a good idea
- Android devices should download apps from the Google Play Store. If you have Google Play installed, you’re automatically protected from potentially harmful apps with the Verify Apps feature. See this Greenbot article.
- Don’t stay permanently logged into your accounts (e.g. Facebook). Many sites (e.g. bank, credit card, etc.) will auto log you off after so many minutes of inactivity. There’s a reason they do this – protecting your account information.
- Don’t allow apps to access location services unless it’s needed. Many apps want to know where you are. There’s no reason to allow this unless knowing your location is essential for the performance of the app.
- Don’t auto-connect to Wi-Fi networks. Set up your device to list available networks and to require you to select the one you want. I allow my devices to auto-connect to known networks – ones that I have accessed in the past.
- Don’t insert someone else’s USB drive (aka flash drive, memory stick or thumb drive) or electronic media into your computer unless you fully trust that the drive is clean. The USB drive can contain malware that will download onto your device and potentially allow someone to take control of your device. Likewise, do NOT put your clean USB drive into another person’s device unless you trust it is 100% clean.
- Don’t click on any link (attached to a Facebook post or included in an e-mail), e-mail attachment, pop-up (e.g. after you log onto your hotel network) or anything else until you think about where it’s from and is it safe to do so. Links, pop-ups and attachments are some of the easiest ways to get malware and viruses on your device. Be careful!
- Don’t open e-mail received from people you do not know
- Don’t use mobile apps that require personal information
- Don’t jailbreak your phone – you will destroy much of the built-in securities
- Turn off your laptop when it is not in use
- Turn off Bluetooth when not using it – Bluetooth provides an access point into your device when it’s on. If you’re not using it, there’s no need to keep it on.
- Log out of your laptop’s browser when not using it
- Turn Wi-Fi off when you are not using it. Even if you’re not accessing the Internet when Wi-Fi is on, you’re device is still transmitting data between nearby networks. If you’re just working on a Word or Excel document, keep your Wi-Fi off.
Be sure to read the next article Securing Your Devices and the Information on Your Devices, which is Part 6 of our weeklong series Using the Internet More Securely.