The world of computing and the internet is a very normal and accepted entity to most geeks. But to some unknown, unsuspecting and unfamiliar users, the whole concept can seem quite strange, almost alien!
Whether you read an article on the internet itself, read the newspaper, watch TV or listen to radio, you’ll increasingly hear stories about internet scams and how to avoid them. I’m going to give you a brief run-down of some very basic measures you can take and software tools to use that can assist you in keeping your computing operations nice and safe.
The Browser of Choice
One of the very first software applications you’ll boot up to access the internet will probably be your web browser. Regardless of the operating system you choose to use, always make sure you use a secure and well known web browser. I highly recommend Mozilla Firefox, as it’s my primary browser of choice. Some users prefer to use Chromium Browser, this is also perfectly safe to use. There are many browsers out in the wild which are based on Firefox and Chromium, but just be very careful if you choose to use any of these alternate third-party web browsers as you can never be too certain of what changes and modifications have been made to them.
Use a Proxy Server
You may not even realize it, but your own Internet Service Provider (ISP) probably allows you access to their proxy server. In general, just type proxy.yourisp.com in your web browser’s proxy settings and port 8080 to use your ISP’s proxy server for web browsing. Although it will not protect you from all of the internet’s nasties, it does add an extra layer of security before anything reaches your own system. It will also hide your real IP address from websites and provide the proxy server’s IP address instead. And in many cases, it can actually speed up your web browsing experience.
If you Google for free proxy servers, there are actually some websites that provide access and actual IP addresses of free public proxy servers. But in my personal experience, I’ve found these to either be very slow to access or there is no access at all. So if possible, stick with the proxy server from your ISP. Or if you’re feeling really brave, you could try setting up your own proxy server on your home network.
I’ll be honest and upfront; if you’re using Microsoft Windows and Internet Explorer for access to the internet, you’re using probably the most unsafe software combination available. Whilst it does do the job at hand, it’s simply not the most secure operating system and web browser available. If possible, consider switching to a Linux based operating system. Even if you just use Linux for your web browsing, you can always dual-boot and keep Windows installed on your system if you still require its use for certain tasks. Even Mac OS is a much safer alternative than Windows, being partly based on a Unix core.
And whilst the topic is up for debate depending on who you consult, there’s no serious and immediate threat of viruses affecting your system with Linux, Unix or Mac OS operating systems.
Security Software (Antivirus and Firewall)
What security software you decide to run really depends on what operating system you are using. If you do decide to stick with Windows, then always make sure you are running a reputable antivirus package and have an active firewall running. In fact, you should have two firewalls active when possible. One software firewall and one hardware firewall. Your hardware router should contain a firewall and it should be activated. If you are unsure how to do this, consult your router manual as the exact process varies depending on your router make and model.
In addition to your hardware/router firewall, you should also be using a software firewall. If you’re using Linux, you most likely already have a firewall installed but it is probably deactivated by default. If you’re using Ubuntu, you can easily activate your software firewall by entering the following command in to a terminal:
sudo ufw enable
Your firewall should now be active. If you are using Windows, then using the built-in Windows Firewall is more than sufficient for protecting your home computer.
If you use Linux as your operating system then there really is no need to run an antivirus package full-time. There are a few scanners available, ClamAV being the most common for Linux users. But I prefer the command line AVG scanner. It can be updated and used to scan a file when required.
For Windows users, there’s a whole stack of good free antivirus packages. AVG Free, Avira Free Antivirus and Avast Free Antivirus to name just a few of the best free options available. And in truth, they all do a fantastic job of protecting a Windows system and there is really no need to be forking out money for expensive and often very bloated security suites. And if you prefer to stick with a Microsoft service, Security Essentials is also a great suite of services that will do a great job of protecting your Windows system.
You see, with taking just a few simple and easy precautions with your computer and internet usage, you can prevent yourself getting in to any real dramas and prevent your operating system, computer system and yourself from becoming a serious victim to the many internet predators just waiting to grab the next innocent web user and take them for a ride.