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How to “surf” the internet safely: 12 essential tips from ESET


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Cybercriminals have the ability to remotely control a computer and gain access to the network

There are many threats that a user can face when browsing the internet with so-called web browsers. Among other things, cybercriminals have the ability to remotely control a computer and gain access to the network to which it is connected.

According to the international digital security company ESET, the six most important threats to a browser are:

  1. Exploiting vulnerabilities in browsers or plugins/extensions you may have installed. This tactic could be used to steal sensitive data or download malware. Attacks often start with a phishing email or by visiting a website that has been hacked or is controlled by the attacker (drive-by-download).
  2. Malicious plugins: There are thousands of plugins on the market that users can “download” to improve their browsing experience. However, many of them have privileged access to the browser. This means that malicious plugins that are faked to look legitimate can be used to steal data, download additional malware, and more.
  3. DNS Poisoning: DNS is the Internet’s address book, which converts the domain names we type into IP addresses so that browsers can display the websites we want to visit. However, attacks on DNS entries stored by your computer or on the DNS servers themselves could allow attackers to redirect browsers to malicious domains, such as phishing websites.
  4. Session hijacking attacks: Session IDs are issued by web pages and application servers when users connect. But if attackers manage to crack these credentials or intercept them (if they are not encrypted), then they could log into the same websites/apps masquerading as users. Then, it is easy to steal sensitive data and possibly financial information.
  5. Man in the middle attack/Browser attack: If attackers manage to get between your browser and the websites you visit, they may be able to modify traffic – for example, redirect you to a phishing page, deliver you ransomware or steal connections. This is especially true when using public Wi-Fi wireless networks.
  6. Exploit web applications: Attacks such as cross-site scripting can target applications on your machine rather than the browser. In this case the browser is used to deliver or execute the malicious file.
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At the same time there is the issue of so-called cookies, which are small pieces of code created by web servers and stored by your browser for a certain period of time. On the one hand, they store information that can help make your browsing experience more personalized – for example, showing you relevant ads or ensuring that you don’t have to log in every time you visit the same webpage. On the other hand, they are a privacy issue and a potential security risk if hackers get hold of the cookies.

12 tips

There are many things users can do to reduce security and privacy risks while browsing the web. Here are 12 best practice tips:

  1. Only visit HTTPS websites (with a padlock in the browser’s address bar), which means hackers can’t monitor the traffic between your browser and the web server.
  2. Learn about phishing to reduce the risk of browser threats transmitted via email and text messages. Never reply to or click on a spam email without checking the sender’s details. And don’t give out sensitive information.
  3. Think before you download apps or files. Always use the official sites.
  4. Use a multi-factor authentication (MFA) application to reduce the impact of credential theft.
  5. Use a VPN from a trusted provider, not a free version. This will create an encrypted tunnel for your internet traffic to keep it secure and hidden from third parties.
  6. Invest in security software from a trusted vendor.
  7. Enable automatic updates on your operating system and software on your devices/machines.
  8. Update your browser settings to prevent tracking and block third-party cookies and pop-ups.
  9. Disable automatic password saving in the browser, although this will affect the user experience when logging in.
  10. Consider using a privacy-conscious browser/search engine to minimize hidden data sharing.
  11. Use private browsing options (eg Chrome’s Incognito mode) to prevent cookie tracking.
  12. Keep your browser and plugins up to date to reduce the risk of exploiting vulnerabilities. Uninstall outdated plugins to further reduce the possibility of attacks.
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