Web security is a wide field that encompasses many aspects. These include, but are not limited to, protection from viruses, spyware, ad-ware, key-loggers, mail or IM spam, social engineering attacks designed to force the user to make irrational decisions, spoofing, fraudulent websites, malicious tracking cookies, phishing attacks and computer hacks. As you can see, the field grows vast if you delve deep into it. This article will briefly describe some of these aspects.
The importance of web security cannot be understated. A virus attack may make your office/home PC inoperable. You may even lose important data which can never be recovered. Imagine losing an important office document or some cherished images of friends and family. Spywares, ad-ware, malicious cookie and key-loggers may track your internet usage and steal personal information from your PC which may include credit card details and passwords. Hacking, spoofing and email spam may do the same. To protect from all these attacks, many commercial/free products are available. Given below is a brief overview of what security software is available.
The most well known web threats are viruses and thanks to their very nature, they can spread through removable media and local networks too. To put it simply, viruses are pieces of code which harm your computer and/or make it vulnerable to more malicious attacks. Many anti-virus solutions from various vendors exist today in the market. These may be available as complete security suites or as stand-alone products. These products also may detect other malicious programs like spyware and ad-ware.
Another important piece of software is a firewall/program checker combination. Basically a firewall checks data that is sent or received by your PC from the Internet or LAN. The program checker component of the firewall checks/authorizes applications that access the internet. This component also monitor’s system level changes made by the said applications.
Other important types of web security software include:
- Phishing filters: that checks for fraudulent websites as you surf the internet and warns you when such a site is detected.
- Anti-Spam filters: these check your emails and detect fraudulent, inappropriate and/or other unwanted content in your mail and block them.
- Ad-Blockers: Ads may be malicious (or may lead to malicious sites). They also hog bandwidth due to their flash based and/or image based nature.
- Other tools: These mainly rate sites based on user reviews and provide a statistical average of the overall “trustworthiness” of the site. Mostly available in the form of addons to web browsers.
However, the most effective way of safely surfing the web can simply be summed up as follows:
- Never visit un-trusted websites. Secure websites usually have a certificate to prevent data from being spoofed.
- Never download software and/or other files from un-trusted sources. Software from reputable companies is also digitally signed.
- Emails from un-trusted sources should be opened with caution. An email that is most likely spam should never be opened.
- Install the appropriate software as described above to further increase your PC’s security.
- Always keep the above mentioned software up to date.
- Unless required, keep your computer offline.
However, even after following all these steps, no computer will be 100% secure. There will always be a new virus or an ingenious method that can be used to break into or harm a PC. Backing up your data is the final and the most important step that can be taken.