How Does Internet Security Work?

by Carol Luther


The Internet, also known as the World Wide Web, allows individuals and businesses to share information and files with other computers. However, any computer that is connected to the Internet is exposed to many risks from other computer users. Even when you are not aware of it, your computer is receiving information from other computers. Some Internet security tasks are automatically performed by your operating system; others must be managed and monitored by the user to be effective.

Common Threats

Protecting your computer while using the Internet is a constant process. PC, Mac and other popular operating systems have some built in Internet security features such as firewalls that block unauthorized access to your computer. Internet browser settings can help protect your computer from popups, adware and malicious codes in JavaScript and ActiveX applications. In addition, many Internet ready computers have virus and spyware detection already installed. Coordinating and monitoring these security programs is up to the user.

Basic Defense

The first line of defense for dial-up, high speed and wireless Internet access is a firewall. When it is active, your computer will only allow connections from computers at trusted sources. Depending on your operating system, you can allow exceptions and add programs and websites. Virus and spyware protection software will help you safeguard your files and your operating system. Malicious computer users (hackers) insert viruses and spyware in html codes, text files and software programs. Once downloaded and activated, these programs can destroy files, copy passwords and damage software applications to the extent that your computer no longer functions.

Passwords and Privacy

Almost every website, forum and even your email program requires you to enter a password. For added security, do not use the same password repeatedly. Combine random letters and numbers for strong password security. Avoid giving your personal email address to every site that you visit. It is better to sign up on new sites with a disposable email address. Despite aggressive legislation and prosecution, spam is still a major problem for Internet users. Review every website's privacy policy before providing personal information including your home address.

Email Security

Pay particular attention to common email security threats. Do not open email file attachments from unknown sources because this tends to be a major source of viruses. Clicking on active links in emails can redirect your browser to sites that contain spyware, adware or worse. Phishing, phony emails from trusted sources that ask for personal and financial information, can lead to identity theft. In general, your bank or credit card will never email a request for you update your information.

Stay Secure

New Internet threats appear daily. Keeping your security software updated is essential to your security plan. Review the default Internet security settings and update settings for your operating system, browser, email program and all installed security software often. Schedule a daily or weekly time for your virus and spyware software to run and report your security status. If you are frequently finding that your computer has been invaded by spyware or viruses, upgrade your software or select stronger protection options.

About the Author

Carol Luther has more than 25 years of business, technology, and freelance writing experience. She has held leadership roles in higher education management, international development, adult education, vocational education, and small business support programs

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