What is Internet Security? | U.S. News

Internet security is any cybersecurity measure taken to protect online transactions, data, and activities. The intent is to protect internet users from hackers and limit or eliminate data breaches.

What Internet Security Is and Why It’s Important

Internet security involves steps taken to protect online activities, transactions, and data. Internet security can be a strategy, such as using only complex passwords for online services. It also can involve steps like installing security software. For example, setting up a firewall for the Windows or Mac OS can block malicious connections, while installing antivirus software helps keep your computer free of malware.

Internet security is important to protect people and their private information online. According to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), one in three US homes with computers are infected with malware, and nearly half of all US adults have been hacked online. In addition, many companies have been subject to data breaches that exposed the personal information of their customers. This is why good cybersecurity practices are so important.

Internet Security Threats

What threats should you be most concerned with? We spoke with several cybersecurity experts on what they think the most significant threats are.

malware

Malware, short for “malicious software,” is a broad term that refers to any software designed to hijack, damage, or destroy a computer or device. Viruses, worms, and ransomware are all examples of malware.

Ransomware

Most of the experts we spoke with mentioned ransomware as one of the fastest growing and most concerning malware types. With ransomware, the victim’s data is either locked or removed until a ransom is paid, which doesn’t always guarantee you’ll get your data back.

Botnets

Botnets use a type of malware called a Remote Access Trojan, which allows cybercriminals to control infected computers remotely to carry out other attacks.

Wi-Fi Threats

Linksys Director of Product Management John Minasyan says that a router’s role in internet security is often forgotten. He points to several exploits directly targeting outer security flaws. “As the first line of defense, a router acts as a gateway between people, devices, and the internet,” he says. Open networks are easy targets for attackers to snoop on the activities of devices on the same network too.

Phishing

Phishing is a technique that cybercriminals use to lure victims into disclosing sensitive information. During a phishing attack, someone sends an electronic communication such as an email or text that looks like it’s from a financial institution or other entity. Instead, the link in the message takes the victim to fake a website controlled by the attacker. Any data the victim enters on the website is compromised. “Phishing is extremely low-skill and low-lift for threat actors,” Nuspire cybersecurity analyst Josh Smith says. “They only need one victim to interact to launch an attack.”

Hacking

Hacking involves the compromise of an otherwise secure account. Generally, someone who was “hacked” had their login credentials stolen or leaked. While this is often done with malicious intent, some hackers do it simply for notoriety, to prove they can, or out of boredom.

Data Loss

Data can be stolen online through data breaches. “When someone signs up for a website and adds their credentials to it, they are at the mercy of that platform’s security,” Smith says. If that website fails to keep your data secure and suffers a data breach, there’s a real possibility that your data could be compromised, corrupted, or lost altogether.

Malicious Websites

All modern web browsers include some type of basic protection from malicious websites. For example, Chrome runs each website someone visits through an antivirus tool, and it will notify you before you perform an unusual action, ReliaQuest enterprise architect AJ Ledwin says. To be on the safe side, only visit websites that have an SSL or TLS certificate.

How To Stay Safe Online

Set up multifactor authentication

Multifactor authentication (MFA) uses a one-time password as an extra layer of security for your accounts. DNSFilter senior researcher Alex Applegate says that setting up MFA is one of the easiest methods to secure your online accounts. “It’s easy to add and incredibly effective,” he said. “Stay away from services that don’t offer MFA of some sort. Besides not offering a key feature, it also speaks to their overall approach to security.”

Consider using a firewall

Firewalls are either software-based or hardware-based tools that act as a barrier between your computer and the open internet, allowing legitimate traffic while blocking unknown or suspicious traffic.

Use strong passwords

University of Chicago computer science professor Ben Y. Zhao suggests using a good password manager to set strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts. “Data breaches are now the norm, and reducing damage from lost passwords is critical,” he says.

Use antivirus software

Antivirus software can protect you from many internet security threats, including new and emerging threats – often the most dangerous. It’s not good enough to just install antivirus software. You must also keep it updated for it to remain effective.

Use a VPN

Installing and using a virtual private network (VPN) is another method to protect yourself while online, as all of your internet traffic passes through an encrypted tunnel that’s difficult for hackers to break into.

Remember that you get what you pay for. Free or cheap VPNs aren’t a good option, Yale Privacy Lab founder Sean O’Brien says. “The app could be malicious, may not work at all, or worse, it could be actively spying on you,” he warns.

Use an identity theft protection service

While taking all the steps recommended here will drastically reduce your risk of being successfully hacked, it won’t eliminate it. Using an identity theft protection service will alert you if your personal information is compromised.

Update software

It’s important to update your device’s operating system and its security software regularly to make sure the software is as secure as possible.

“It has become a perennial joke that people are quick to dismiss, delay, or ignore software updates when messages pop up,” cybersecurity consultant Peter Robichau says. “But when these notifications are ignored long enough, the devices become bright, shiny targets.” Vulnerabilities are often quickly exploited, so the sooner you update, the better.

Block webcam access

It also may be a good idea to review to whom you’ve given webcam access. In Chrome, you can find this by clicking privacy and security, then site settings, and then ‘camera or microphone. Safari users can find similar settings by clicking preferences.

Use an ad blocker

O’Brien also recommends installing an ad blocker. “It not only makes for a calmer and less cluttered user experience, but it also makes it difficult for malware to be delivered to you via dodgy ads,” he explained.

Use parental controls

If you have concerns that your children may be visiting insecure or inappropriate websites, using parental controls can prevent this. Parents can manage their children’s Google accounts and restrict access to explicit sites or other sites within Chrome, with similar functionality available from Apple for the Safari web browser and other iOS devices.

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