Have you ever typed in an Internet link (called “URL”) you read in a magazine, ad or Email and then suddenly end up at a totally inappropriate web site? Even worse, did that site give your computer a virus which you spent an entire day fixing? I personally mistyped the URL of a web company I know very well and ended up at a site that attacked my computer.
Love it or not, but surfing the web can be dangerous not only to your computer, but even to your pocketbook. Here are some basic steps you can take to make sure you don’t end up at the web site from hell.
- Avoid typing in a URL into the website menu bar (i.e. the text field where you enter something like http://www.eventrebels.com.) Instead, bookmark a search engine like Google or Yahoo and then enter the link into their search page. This has many advantages. First of all, you catch any typos before you go to the wrong place. Secondly, the search engine will give you a description of the site, hopefully validating that it is actually a site you want to go.
- The exception to this is if you went to the site before. In this case (if you are using a newer browser), you can type the URL in the menu bar and the full link should appear in full. You can then select the link and go safely to the site. If the link does not appear then you should use a search engine as in the previous paragraph.
- Links in Email can be very dangerous. First of all, never click on a link from a sender you do not know or trust. Some people say you should never click on a link in any Email but you should always go through a search engine.
- A caveat to this is a great deal of common sense. If the subject line or text do not seem in character for that person, it probably would be best to discard the Email. His or her account may have been hijacked by a bad guy and is being used to get at your computer or vital personal information.
- Social media like Facebook may be even more dangerous than Email. Pretty much the same rules as before – use search engine to clean and make sure it is in character for that person. In terms of social media, I wouldn’t even look at any link that promises me easy money or is from a person I do not personally know. Even if it’s a friend of a friend, you should use search engines to validate.
- Needless to say, be especially wary of any site that requires financial information or critical personal information like your Social Security Number. ALWAYS access these from a search engine.
- If you get a popup on your browser that is unexpected and has wording of any kind that seems insidious, kill the browser immediately. Do not click on “Close” or the “X” on the popup – that can be programmed to install a virus. Instead, bypass the browser completely and kill with the operating system. On Windows use Control-Alt-Delete to brink up a task bar and then select the browser to kill it. On the Mac, the “Force Quit” menu option under the Apple logo on the left does the same thing.
- Stay up to date with the latest browser and operating system patches. The simplest thing to do is enable automatic updates.
If you follow these steps, you can eliminate most of the ways bad sites can get to your computer.