Blog / Safe Holiday Browsing – How to keep from Getting Scrooged this Christmas Season
OK, ok; I have succumbed! I started playing Christmas music on the car radio and even programmed the home audio system to play my wife’s favourite Christmas channels. This is way earlier than normal for me. However, I had a good reason for delaying this in previous years; I think I was scarred by having to listen to The Cat Carol, which in my humble opinion, is one of the most insipid Christmas tunes ever composed or sung.
Kevin – one of my colleagues at TRINUS – and I recently made a short presentation to the Stony Plain Chamber of Commerce members. Our topic was stress-free Christmas IT; we wanted to provide some tips on ways to avoid Internet malware and scams at Christmas time, as lots of people are turning to Online Shopping this holiday season. Over the next 2 editions of the Weekly Tech Update, I wanted to share some of these tips with you:
- Always navigate to a website by typing into the browser URL field – or using a reputable search engine. Do NOT use an Email hyperlink. Hyperlinks in Emails (often the blue-underlined text that opens your web browser) is one of the primary ways hackers get you to navigate to a bogus website. The reason it’s a problem is that the label text in the Email is not always the actual place on the Internet that the link directs your browser to.
- Use a Private Browser window. All browsers – Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Edge – to name a few, have the ability to launch a Private Browser session. They may call them different names (Chrome’s private browser is called Incognito), but the effect is the same. The private session will not track activity (history), or allow the website to post Cookies to your computer. Cookies are small files saved on your computer that the website uses to track information about you and your session on their website.
- Use Multiple Browser Types for Different Work. I have 4 browser programs installed on my primary computer: Chrome, Internet Explorer, Edge, and Firefox. Two of them (Internet Explorer and Edge) came with Windows 10; I installed the other 2. With rare exceptions, browsers don’t share information between themselves. Thus, if I was on the NFL website checking last night’s scores using Chrome, Firefox doesn’t know I was there. I typically split my browsing activity between the 4 browsers by the type of browsing I am doing: Internal corporate work, Client-facing corporate work, Secure personal activities (ie: banking) and general personal activities. If I suspect any browser has been compromised, I know my other web activities are safe – and it’s an easy matter to delete history, cookies, or even wipe-out and re-install the compromised browser.
- Clear Browser Caches often. Browser caches are portions of your computer memory that are set aside to record information about your recent website activities; what sites you visited, what pages you viewed, even information that you might have entered. Caches are used to increase the performance of the browser, so that website pages appear on screen faster, and in some cases pre-populated with desired information. However, it’s also a trail of breadcrumbs that can be accessed in the background by websites without your knowledge. All browsers allow you to clear data from the cache; in some cases all of it, or sometimes just part of it. Most browsers allow you to set the browser cache to clear each time you close the browser, which is my preferred option.
Next week, I’ll share these Tips’ balance, including how NOT to accept Cookies from Strangers, how NOT to use Social Media logins, and reduce the risk from compromised bank accounts.
I might have offended some of you who like The Cat Carol, but that’s just too bad …
(The more astute reader will recognize that I embedded 2 hyperlinks into my Email; it was a test. Did you click on either of them? If so, then you didn’t read Tip #1! I was nice enough to direct you to our web page – nice and safe. But here is the URL to the Cat Carol: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZ2sa3tyvkI that you can copy/paste into your browser.)