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Module 1: Computer Security and Privacy

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2.2 Best Practices for Securing Online and Network Transactions

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Best Practices for Securing Online and Network Transactions
* Lesson 2 - PROTECTING YOUR COMPUTER 2.2 - BEST PRACTICES
FOR SECURING ONLINE AND NETWORK TRANSACTIONS [1] Best
Practices for Securing Online and Network Transactions

Connecting your computer to the Internet introduces it to a world of
information and entertainment. However, it also leaves your computer
vulnerable to many online threats. For example, it becomes easier for
viruses to transfer from an infected computer to your computer. You can
reduce the risks to your computer from these online threats by using a
combination of best practices such as creating strong passwords, encrypting
data, and using antivirus software. The following table explains the
various actions that you can take to secure online and network
transactions. Scroll down to read each description.

_

Use strong passwords

A strong password is a complex password, which cannot be guessed easily.
The password should consist of a combination of uppercase and lowercase
letters, numbers, and special characters such as ampersand_ and _number_
sign, and should not contain complete words or names.A strong password is
your primary defense against security and privacy threats. Strong passwords
must be created for:

* Local access to standalone computers
* Access to networks
* Access to Web sites that have sensitive information, such as personal
or financial details
* Access to any valuable data
* Personal data stored on your computer

_

Protect against hacking and spyware

While you are browsing the Internet, it is possible that a software
program installed on your computer is transmitting your personal
information to a hacker in another country. Such software programs are
examples of spyware. These programs generally get installed on your
computer without your knowledge and secretly transfers confidential data
from your computer to the hackers. Sometimes, employers deliberately
install spyware on the computers used by the employees to track the
computing activities of the employees.Windows Vista includes a built-in
antispyware program called Windows Defender, which helps prevent spyware
from getting secretly installed on the computer.Make use of Internet
service provider (ISP) support for online security. The support can be in
the form of antivirus and anti-spyware software. Some ISPs even provide
firewall protection, e-mail virus screening, and spam protection.

[Protect against hacking and spyware]

Clear browsing history periodically

The Web sites and Web pages that you visit while browsing the Internet
are saved in your browser's History_. Also, while you browse the Internet,
a number of files are stored in the temporary memory of your computer. This
temporary memory is known as _cache memory_. The files stored in the cache
memory record information about the Web pages you visit.However, some of
these temporary Internet files may contain your personal information, such
as your username and password, which can be accessed by hackers. To prevent
hackers from accessing your personal information, regularly delete the
contents present in the browser history and in the cache memory.While
visiting a Web site, you may notice that it displays your name. This is
made possible through the use of cookies. _Cookies_ are small files that
are created on your computer by previously visited Web sites to identify
and track your preferences. Their purpose is to provide a more personal
experience while visiting a Web site. However, cookies can also be a threat
to computer privacy because they contain your personal information. For
example, the cookies might contain your credit card details that you have
used while shopping online. For these reasons, it is a good practice to
periodically delete cookies to prevent your personal information from being
misused.

_

Avoid sharing personal information

Some Web sites require you to fill out forms containing personal
information such as your name, gender, and age. In case of e-commerce
sites, you might even need to share your bank account details or credit
card number. But, remember that hackers can access and misuse this
information. Some companies may also use this information to send you
unwanted commercial e-mail messages. Therefore, before you share any
personal information on a Web site, ensure that it is a secured Web site
and there is a specific need to provide the information.

[Avoid sharing personal information]

Perform online transactions only on secure sites

While shopping online, you usually need to provide sensitive information
such as your bank account number or credit card details. Therefore, it is
important to ensure that you carry out online transactions only on secure
Web sites. A Web site is secure if its name has the prefix https_. The
prefix indicates that the Web site implements the _Secure Sockets Layer
(SSL)_ protocol. SSL is an Internet security protocol that ensures secure
data communication by encrypting the information transmitted. The SSL
protocol certifies that the Web site is genuine and ensures that the data
you provide to the site is not misused.When you enter a secure Web site,
most of the Web browsers display a message to confirm that you have entered
a secure Web site. The locked padlock icon that appears in the Address bar
helps you identify a secure Web site. You can also check the security
certificate of a Web site before performing any online transaction on that
site.

_

Configure security components by using Windows Security Center

Windows Security Center is a feature in Windows Vista, which provides you
a convenient utility to check the status of essential security settings and
track the antivirus software installed on your computer. You can open
Security Center from Control Panel. The Security Center has four
components:

* Firewall_. In Windows Vista, Windows Firewall is automatically
activated. The firewall helps prevent malicious content, such as viruses
and worms, from entering your computer.
* _Automatic updating_. This feature checks for relevant security-related
updates available on the Microsoft Update Web site. Enabling this feature
ensures that your computer remains updated and protected against the newest
security threats on the Internet.
* _Malware protection_. Spyware and other potentially unwanted software
can install itself on your computer without appropriately obtaining your
consent. Windows Defender provides real-time protection against such
software while you are connected to the Internet.
* _Other security settings_. Other security settings include Internet
settings and User Account Control settings. Using Internet options, you can
set the security level to medium, medium-high, or high. Internet Explorer 7
has higher security levels than its previous versions. User Account Control
prevents unauthorized changes to your computer by asking for the password
before making changes.

_

Disable active content

Active content_ refers to small programs that get installed on your
computer while you are browsing the Internet. Their basic function is to
provide you with an interactive Internet experience through videos and
toolbars. However, in some cases, these programs can be used to damage the
data stored on your computer or install malicious software without your
consent. By using your browser settings, you can disable active content to
prevent the installation of such programs.

[Disable active content]



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