Data thieves, viruses and con artists are as common
on the internet as seawater at a beach. But all it takes is
internalizing a few basic rules and making sure a few warning signs
are not ignored to make sure that surfing is no more dangerous than
it has to be.
"There is, of course, a certain risk online," says Steffen Bartsch of the Centre for Advanced Security Research (CASED) at the Technical University in Darmstadt, Germany. But the danger is more often perceived than real.
"If you look at the numbers closely, not everyone online is regularly the victim of a crime."
The problem is not usually the dangers, says Bartsch, but the fact that many users can't accurately assess the risks.
"One example is encryption," he notes. "If it's incorrectly set up on a site, there's only a cryptic warning on your browser instead of straight words."
And a lot of users have learned to just read over incomprehensible warnings, just clicking them away, sometimes with awful consequences.
If you keep your eyes open, you'll often see the warning signs for potential dangers right away. Most encrypted connections - over which critical data like passwords can safely be sent - can immediately be recognized by a padlock symbol on the screen, says Bartsch.
"People just lack an awareness for it."
Check the site map when encountering unknown shops. If the information is incomplete or completely lacking, a swindler might be behind it. If you want to be absolutely certain, just stick to the big brand names, advises Bartsch, since the likelihood of crime is much reduced there.
Further problems can be spared by using a well-secured computer to go online. Anti-virus programmes should be up to date. There should also be a firewall and the newest update of the operating system and browser should be installed, advises Germany's Federal Office for Information Security (BSI).
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