Adults in the US spend about 4 hours every day connected to the internet, yet complaints and frustrations about web browsing experiences are on the rise. There are a few common themes that occur again and again, including a lack of website compatibility, the threats posed by malicious software and viruses, and concerns about intrusive advertising, disruptive pop-ups, and data privacy.
Fortunately, there are several ways to protect yourself and make your internet experience a safer and more satisfying experience, no matter whether you are browsing on a laptop, tablet or smartphone. Here are some of our top tips:
10 tips for browsing safely
1. Keep your browser and any plugins updated
Web browsers are often your first point of contact with the internet no matter what device you are using. Developers release frequent updates to ensure you can experience the latest the web has to offer – more than ever websites are taking advantage of all the new features enabled by HTML5 video and audio, advanced styling and improved speeds. Many sites have stopped supporting older versions browsers, due to compatibility and security concerns.
Hackers often target vulnerabilities in web browsers which is why the companies that make them release regular updates to patch any vulnerabilities. Installing the latest versions helps keep your device secure – fortunately, most common browsers include options to automatically update either in the browser themselves or as part of the operating system update tools.
2. Use a browser that allows you to take your bookmarks with you between devices
Most modern browsers allow you to create an account so that you can reduce your reliance on search engines and synchronize your bookmarks between your laptop, tablet, and smartphone. Many even enable you to see the pages you have open in other devices and open them in the device you are using at the time.
3. Block Pop-ups
While desktop pop-ups from your operating system are unavoidable, pop-ups in your web browser can often be switched off. Browser pop-ups typically open new browser windows to push adverts, and while most are just annoying, some can contain malicious links or inappropriate content. Most browsers come with filters that automatically block pop-ups and enable you to allow them for those trusted sites where they may be advantageous.
4. Use an ad blocker
Pop-up ads and the feeling of ads following you around the internet have led to the rise in popularity of the adblocker. Ad blockers stop webpages showing you ads, which sounds great until you realize how controversial this subject is and the profound impact it could have on the websites you visit.
Most websites are paid for by ads on a pay per impression basis – so if you have an ad blocker running, you deny the publisher the revenues that are paying to keep the site going.
By all means, protect yourself using an ad blocker, but do consider whitelisting your favorite sites as the ad revenue is what keeps them in business!
5. Enable “do not track” in your browser
Many browsers include the ability to send a “do not track” request to websites which asks them not to collect or track your browsing data. However, what happens depends on how the sites respond to the request – but most websites and web servers don’t change their behavior and would appear to ignore the request. Still, making it clear you don’t wish to be tracked is a good start.
6. Clear your web browser cache and cookies
Even if websites do decide to track your browsing data, you can limit the impact by regularly clearing your browser cache and deleting unwanted cookies. This prevents ads from following you around the web and can also ensure you have the latest version of a web page downloaded.
All major browsers allow you to do this manually, and you can easily clear all your data, but there are also software options that automate the process to make your life easier. Whichever route you choose to go it may be worth considering whitelisting those sites that you regularly log in to avoid having to re-enter login details constantly.
7. Turn on private browsing
Private browsing protects your private information and blocks some websites from tracking your search and browsing data. It won’t hide your activity from your internet service provider, but it does reduce the accumulation of cookies and can be helpful if you are buying presents online for a significant other.
8. Use a VPN
Virtual proxy networks or VPNs help you maintain your privacy by encrypting your data and internet requests before they ever hit the internet. The technology works the same no matter how you have connected to the internet – the encrypted data is sent to the VPN server which decrypts the requests before sending them on to the online destination. The information is then sent back through the same process meaning that sites, advertisers and internet service providers can’t track what you are doing.
VPNs such as the one included in Panda Dome uses the most secure encryption protocols on the market to ensure the only person that can see your data is you.
9. Use a password manager
The number of password leaks that occur when websites are hacked makes it very dangerous to reuse the same password for a range of different sites. To prevent password leaks from being too damaging, you need to use unique passwords on every website. These should also be strong passwords – long, unpredictable passwords that contain numbers and symbols.
However, remembering strong passwords for all those different passwords is almost impossible – that’s where a password manager comes in. They encrypt and securely store your login information for all the websites you used and help you log in automatically – leaving you to remember just the one master password.
10. Ensure you have up-to-date antivirus and firewall protection
You need antivirus and firewall protection software on your computer no matter how carefully you browse the web or how smart you think you are about the links you click and the files you open.
Threats can be hidden in even in the most reputable websites or files from the most trusted of sources and ensuring you are protected with a smart antivirus platform is well worth a small investment in time to ensure you are protected. The most reputable antivirus software solutions currently available, use big data and AI to monitor every running application and detect attacks before they happen.
To protect its users, Microsoft has already launched a patch for the affected systems, including Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008. Although Microsoft “observed no exploitation of this vulnerability, it is highly likely that malicious actors will write an exploit for this vulnerability and incorporate it into their malware.” As such, it is vital that all users of the affected systems install the corresponding patch as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, advanced protection solutions such as Panda Adaptive Defense and Panda Adaptive Defense 360 provide extra layers of security that can turn your endpoints into bunkers by activating Lock Mode. This stops any unknown program from being able to run until it has been validated by Panda Security.
Microsoft also recommends:
- Enabling Network Level Authentication (NLA) on compatible systems (Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2)
- Disabling the Remote Desktop service on those computers where it is not strictly necessary.
Make sure you are on top of updates and patches
The list of cyberattacks that have been made possible by a lack of relevant patches is extensive: from ransomware and cryptojacking, to massive data breaches. One of the problems when it comes to searching for and applying the necessary patches is a lack of resources and time in companies. What’s more, a lot of the time it is difficult to prioritize which patches to apply first.
To help prioritize, manage and deploy patches and updates, Panda Clients have Panda Patch Management. This module, which requires no additional deployment from the client, not only provides patches and updates for operating systems, but also for hundreds of third party applications.
- Discover, plan, install, and monitor: Provides visibility of endpoint health in real time, in terms of vulnerabilities, patches or pending updates, and unsupported software (EoL).
- Audit, monitor, and prioritize updates on operating systems and applications. Allows real time visibility of the status of pending patches and updates for the system and third party applications.
- Prevents incidents, systematically reducing the attack surface created by software vulnerabilities. The management of patches and updates enables organizations to get ahead of vulnerability exploit attacks.
- Contains and mitigates attacks, immediately patching one or several endpoints: The console correlates detected threats and exploits with the uncovered vulnerabilities. Response time is minimized, containing and remediating attacks.
Two days ago, a new vulnerability was discovered in Windows, affecting users of Windows XP, Windows 7, and other older Windows systems. Users of Windows 8 and 10 are not affected. This remote code execution exists in Remote Desktop services, and can be remotely exploited without authentication to execute arbitrary code.
Microsoft explains: A remote code execution vulnerability exists in Remote Desktop Services – formerly known as Terminal Services – when an unauthenticated attacker connects to the target system using RDP and sends specially crafted requests. This vulnerability is pre-authentication and requires no user interaction. An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could execute arbitrary code on the target system. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights.
According to Microsoft, this vulnerability is “wormable”, which means that, theoretically, an attacker could use it to deploy malware that would spread automatically between systems with the same vulnerability.
In fact, to illustrate just how serious this problem is, it is worth remembering a notorious attack that also exploited a vulnerability in Windows systems. WannaCry. The global WannaCry attacks used a vulnerability called EternalBlue to infect over 200,000 computers in 150 countries Microsoft launched a patch for this vulnerability two months before the WannaCry attacks, a fact that underlines the importance of installing patches as soon as they are available. As of today, WannaCry is still active; there have been almost 5 million detections of this ransomware in the two years since the global attacks.