Some Basic Tips for Internet Safety

14 07 2012

There is a saying that “on the Internet, no-one knows you’re a dog”‘. What this means is that it is very easy to hide your identity, but that cuts both ways. The person you think you are chatting to, or accepting as a friend on Facebook may not be who you think they are. Trust is a basic human instinct, it’s how societies develop, enabling co-operation and progress. The problem is that there are always people looking to take advantage of that situation. When you meet someone in person there are certain actions you follow to assess them. Looks, voice, mannerisms, dress are all used by us to decide whether we are going to like or trust them. First impressions count for a lot and people take great care to create good ones. Interractions on the Internet are no different. A professional looking web site, a well crafted invitation, suggestions of mutual friends, all go a long way towards establishing credibility. Unfortunately on the Internet you are at a disadvantage because it is very difficult to validate the information you are presented with, but it’s not impossible.

So here are a few basic tips you can follow to validate that connection BEFORE you commit.

1. Use Google (or your search engine of choice) to cross check the web site before you pass any information over. Many of the scam sites have been identified and ‘outed’ on the Internet.  A quick Google will bring these to your attention.

2. Before accepting that Linked-in or Facebook friend request, have a look at their profile. Does it look credible, are there errors, does it make sense?

3. Whilst not foolproof, a very simple check is to ‘hover’ your mouse pointer over a URL before you click. Does the address that appears at the bottom of the screen look ‘right’? If you are expecting it to point to your bank, and the address seems to be going to Russia, it probably makes sense to be cautious.

4. If you are going to send personal or financial information to a web site, make sure the connection is secure. The URL should start https (instead of the usual http). This shows that the information will be encrpyted whilst it is being transmitted.

So there you go, a few more tools to add to your bag. The surface has barely been scratched, but as someone else has trademarked ‘every little helps’.

See the next blog for some more hints and tips.

David

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