Online security is one of the most important issue while using the internet, specially when you are using someone else’s computers or in cyber cafes. You may have to compromise your private information knowingly or unknowingly. There are many things which are responsible for sending your sensitive information to wrong hands such using old / pirated operating systems, software cracks or games or other applications downloaded from internet, switching automatic updates off, using old buggy browsers, etc.
Your brain is the best anti-virus application available. If you are not updating it regularly, you will be in trouble.
Even the anti-xxx applications cannot guarantee your safety, be it paid or free. You must remember that viruses and anti-viruses both are programs which are constantly being updated by its maintainers. You never know who wins the battle at what time, leaving you no second chance.
Safety Rules to Follow Online on Public PCs
I personally follow all rules when I cannot avoid using someone else’s or public computers which is not so carefully optimized for security. Following are some guidelines which will significantly improve your security while you are online.
- Avoid Internet Explorer
If you are using any version of Internet Explorer, there are chances of risks. Windows and Internet Explorer are one of the most targeted applications constantly on attack. Also if you are using Windows XP or any older version of Microsoft’s latest version of Windows, unless both Windows and Internet Explorer are updated to latest versions, it is always a risk which should be avoided.
- If you cannot avoid Internet Explorer
*If it’s not possible to avoid Internet explorer, you should *use it with add-ons / toolbars disabled. One of the common method used by viruses to control Internet Explorer is to to install some add-ons in internet explorer with or without user’s knowledge. So you should start internet explorer with add-ons disabled. To start Internet Explorer with adds-on and/or toolbars disabled *iexplore.exe -extoff * command in “run” dialogue box in start menu.
- Using Firefox or Chrome
*Firefox is one of the most secure web browser available. It is free and Open Source Web Browser which also allow you to enhance it according to your needs with the help of plug-ins. *Chrome browser is also one of the fastest as well as secure browser available. I think you should always prefer one of these two over Internet Explorer.
- Use Private Browsing or Incognito
*Firefox and Chrome has some features for remembering and managing passwords which can be misused if not used with caution. Also it is possible to know history of websites used, which is saved in browser. If you don’t wish browsers to store your passwords or any other information of yours, you should use *Mozilla Firefox’s Private Browsing (press Control + Shift + P) or Chrome’s Incognito mode *(Control + Shift + N)*.
- Avoid Typing your passwords
*There is a family of malicious programs called ‘key-loggers’ which keeps record of keyboard buttons pressed and silently send this data to some other computers over internet. Then some programs are used to extract user IDs, emails, passwords, credit / debit card numbers and other informations from this data. One of the solution over this problem is to use window’s *on-screen keyboard application to type the passwords. This application uses internal system to type characters and send data to browser without using keyboard. You can find this tool in Accessories in Programs in Start Menu.
- Use Password Managers
Despite of your all attempts no one can guarantee that your passwords won’t reach wrong hands. Experts advice to change your passwords every 15 days and also to create very secure passwords. Also using same passwords to all or more than one website is also not recommended. The best solution to this problem is to use Password Manager Applications to create and store your passwords. I personally use KeePass Password Safe application which allows you to create secure passwords, store them in single encrypted file with one master password, gives you some of the benefits of on-screen keyboard applications and carry your passwords securely even in pen drive. It is much secure way to manage your passwords.
If you know or use any other method that enhances online security, you can share it in comments.