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Internet security fundamentals are designed to protect individual Internet users from security risks which accompany use of the Internet. Following even the most basic security fundamentals will make your browsing experience much safer, and will also secure your personal information from predators. Being a victim of identity theft is the thing you want to avoid above all, because it can take weeks or years to clear your credit history. Security fundamentals serve several purposes: they protect you from identity theft, minimize potential damage to your computer through viruses and hijackings, and make the Internet safer for others to use as well, through a network of protected computers and users.
The most basic security fundamentals have to do with the ways in which you secure and provide your information. Change your passwords frequently, and use alphanumeric codes, or difficult pass phrases. Resist the temptation to use passwords that include your name, or the names of your children or pets. Familiar objects and locations should also be avoided, to make it more difficult to guess your password. If you suspect that an online account has been compromised, act immediately to change your password and alert the site of the breach.
Another precept of security fundamentals involves being very careful about how and when you disclose information. Do not release personal information such as your address, credit card number, phone number, or bank account number to unreliable sources. Sites with expired security certificates should be avoided, and use common sense before releasing this kind of information: if you can purchase an item locally, for example, try to choose that option over ordering it online. If you do release this kind of information, make sure that you know who it is being sent to, and how it will be used. Never release sensitive information like your passport or social security number, and always use encrypted forms to send sensitive data.
Many people are victims of phishing, a type of scam in which the victim is contacted by someone who is claiming to represent someone else. Some phishing scams, like those surrounding Nigerian money, are obvious. Others are more subtle: you may receive communications from a company claiming to be your bank, credit card company, educational institution, or cell phone provider, for example. The email might say that additional information is needed, and request you to provide it. Do not respond to emails like this: the best course of action is to call your company directly if you have questions, and be aware that most financial institutions do not carry out business via email. Banks will also not ask for usernames, passwords, and other sensitive information, because they follow security fundamentals of their own to protect customers.
Additional security fundamentals include protecting your computer and Internet connection. Breaches in security can result in viral infections, and in some cases, a hacker may hijack your computer and use it to send out unwanted email or launch attacks on a website. Avoid this by having a firewall in place, keeping your operating system current with updates, and using a less vulnerable browser such as Opera, Safari, or Mozilla Firefox.
By following basic security fundamentals to protect yourself, you can reduce the risks of Internet browsing. You will never be able to fully protect yourself, however, so make sure that you get frequent copies of your credit report, and always report suspicious transactions to your financial institution immediately. If you are on a network such as one found at a school or office, make sure to follow additional security fundamentals as recommended by your network administrator to protect the network as a whole, in addition to yourself.
@Soulfox -- that is not always practical. For example, what if there is an application you must use and it won't run under the operating system you have determined is the safest? Do you abandon the operating system you need for that application for the sake of being more secure?
That would probably be a mistake as even the operating systems that have a dubious reputation for security have third-party programs available that will address those issues. Again, research and see what is available, but the chances are good you can find a solution to address security problems regardless of what operating system you have.
One of the most fundamental things one can do in terms of Internet security take place before a computer or operating system is bought -- research. If you are concerned about security, have a look at available operating systems and see how they rate when it comes to security. If security is your highest concern, go with the operating system that offers the highest security.
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