It is hard to imagine work, education, entertainment and many other everyday activities without the Internet. Secure access to the Internet and awareness of threats on the Internet, which can have serious and real consequences, should therefore be a priority for every Internet user.
The most common threats on the Internet
Threats on the Internet are mainly malicious software and the activity of cybercriminals who want to get rich at the expense of careless network users. Internet scammers may use malware, fake websites or hacking attacks to access sensitive data of Internet users.
Malware includes viruses, worms and trojans, which can cause various types of damage, such as slowing down the system, destroying files or displaying unwanted ads (adware). An increasingly common form of threats on the Internet is also ransomware, i.e. software blocking access to the system or files, and then demanding a ransom instead of restoring access.
Malware and cybercriminals may also focus on spying on user activity on the web and stealing data (passwords to bank accounts, social media and emails, credit card numbers, contact lists, etc.). A particularly dangerous method of fraud is phising, in which criminals impersonate institutions or individuals in order to obtain information (e.g. related to online payments) that will be used for theft. Pharming is an even more difficult form of phishing to detect. Malware redirects a user who correctly entered the address of a bank's website to a very similar looking website of a criminal, thanks to which the user gains access to the Internet user's account.
Finally, a separate category of online risks is content unsuitable for children and young people. Images of violence, pornography and various anti-social behaviour, as well as contacts with strangers, can have particularly severe consequences for children. Parents should therefore use software to block such content on devices used by their children.
Network security - basic principles
The main rules for safe use of the Internet relate to security of access to devices and accounts, use of appropriate software, and caution while on the Internet.
- Create strong passwords (containing at least 8 characters, including lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers and symbols), separate for each device, account or application.
- You should regularly update your software, especially your operating system, web browsers and applications that connect to the Internet. New versions of the software are less likely to have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cybercriminals.
- You should benefit from good, wide-ranging protection and regularly updated antivirus software. This also applies to mobile devices.
- Be particularly careful when using the Internet over public Wi-Fi networks, which are often poorly protected, and when using someone else's device (in this case, too, it is uncertain whether the equipment is adequately protected).
- It is good practice to back up important data on a regular basis. It is best to store copies in two places: in the cloud and on an external, not connected to the Internet, data carrier.
What shouldn't you do if you want to enjoy a safe internet?
The best recipe for a safe internet is risk awareness and caution to avoid potential threats.
- Do not open suspicious e-mails or files attached to them.
- You should also avoid going to untrusted sites, especially those that raise concerns about antivirus programs or browsers, as well as downloading files (e.g. torrents) and installing programs of unknown origin.
- It's also always worth reading exactly what you agree to, which applications and websites ask for, instead of automatically clicking "confirm" or "accept".
- In the case of any pages related to payments and providing sensitive personal information, you should carefully check the address and appearance of the page to ensure that you are sure to be on the right website.
How to increase your online safety?
There is no single, reliable guarantee of network security, so education is the most important thing. An Internet user aware of the threats and the forms they take is less likely to fall prey to cybercriminals. It is therefore worth reading manuals on cyber security and various threats on the Internet, which are published by websites, blogs and NGOs dealing with new technologies, companies developing antivirus software, as well as Internet providers.
The network security principles outlined above are an absolute basis. Additional safeguards necessary for companies and individuals who have access to confidential data or large financial resources may include, but are not limited to:
- secure connections thanks to VPN (Virtual Private Network) services,
- HDD encryption and multi-level security system for confidential information,
- additional Wi-Fi network security beyond a strong password and a name that does not reveal the location of the router,
- specialized protection of servers on which data is stored.