Defensive Browsing

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This article offers some helpful and general tips for safe browsing and online shopping. It offers simple and manageable procedures that help to ensure the safety of one's personal information and the security of any devices.

What is Defensive Browsing?

If you are a driver, you may have heard the term defensive driving at some point in the past. The basis of defensive driving is to be extra vigilant. A good defensive driver is capable of anticipating possible road hazards before they become threats. A very good defensive driver can and will anticipate the mistakes of other drivers before they occur.

This may sound odd, but safe web browsing is not all that different from defensive driving. When surfing the web or making purchases in an online store, one can anticipate and avoid possible breaches in the privacy and security of personal information and devices. By personal information I mean birth dates, credit or debit card numbers, social security numbers and even names. It is almost never a good idea to enter one's social security number online. Avoid it at all costs. 

You may be wondering, "how do I practice defensive browsing?"
First off, avoid disreputable websites. If one has been browsing long enough, said individual should be able to spot a poorly designed webpage when it arises. They often have poor graphic design, are covered with broken links and slow a browser application to a crawl.

This is not always true. Sometimes these pages appear well designed and have decent functionality. If a webpage looks reputable but you are not sure and it offers a product that you would like to purchase or some so called free software that you would like to download, do some cross referencing. By that I mean researching the webpage and its reputability.

The classic rule still applies when browsing. That rule is: if something is to good to be true, it probably is. Trustworthy companies such as Google will often certify an online store if it is reputable and does good business. Also, people that have been scammed by disreputable websites are not shy about posting their feelings on forums, blogs and or YouTube.

Do NOT take risks
If one does not find any evidence that a webpage is either reputable or disreputable, said individual should not take the risk of downloading any software or files from it. Nor should said individual attempt to purchase a product from that site. I would not recommend purchasing anything online while utilizing a public wifi connection either. Also, avoid big, green or flashing download links and check the URL bar before downloading from what appears to be a trustworthy company such as Adobe. Webpage designers often mimic these company's sites in an attempt to get consumers to download malicious files masquerading as software updates.

Have a back-up plan
Even the most defensive browser is likely to accidentally click on a link that initializes a file download from a questionable website at some point in time. That is why it is a good idea to have a browsing application set to question every download you attempt before it begins.

Yes, I am talking about that annoying little pop up that asks you, "are you sure." It will save you from some pretty nasty malware, spyware, or adware. This I promise you.

Lastly, even when purchasing from a reputable website, it is a good idea to not allow that store to save your credit or debit card information for future use. Security breaches happen, and when they do, that card information is free for the taking to any hacker who desires it.

Thanks for reading. I would love any feedback and wish fun and safe browsing for all.
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Expert Comment

by:Loganathan Natarajan
What about storing cpanel, or important logins to re-login often? shall we store it in the browser?

Author Comment

by:Kiefer Dunham
Hi Loganathan. I very much enjoy the convenience of storing my usernames and passwords in my browser for several of the websites that I frequently visit. Most of the time this practice is very acceptable and carries little risk of a breach in the security of your personal information. However, I would not recommend doing so if you share any of your devices with others. In the end, it is really at the user's discretion. If you save all of your usernames and passwords to a browser account such as those offered by say Google Chrome, then all that a hacker has to do is find out that one username and password to have instant access to all your other accounts. There is an old saying. "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." I believe it applies here. There is always some risk. Though, the risk is minimal in this circumstance. I hope this helps.

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