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A safer Internet experience for users

By Jean-Claude Elias - Oct 25,2018 - Last updated at Oct 25,2018

Apart from being careful with suspicious e-mails, not visiting doubtful websites and not clicking on the first invitation that insidiously entices you to “click here to solve the problem”, is there really, practically, anything else you can do to enjoy a safer Internet experience? That is without holding a PhD degree in IT or reading unreasonable amounts of technical information!

One of the simplest methods consists of browsing only websites you know well, that you frequently visit and that have proven beyond any doubt that they are reliable and clean. Usually these would be associated to big names such as, to mention a few examples only, amazon.com, cnn.com, jordantimes.com, netflix.com, mybank.com (replace with your bank actual name…), microsoft.com, and the like.

In real life, however, you cannot restrict yourself to these sites, understandably. An Internet experience goes well beyond a few sites, and only the world is the frontier. This is particularly true when you are doing a search and the results take you to uncharted territory.

In addition to having a good antivirus and Internet security software installed on your computer there is an easy way to tell if the website you have landed on is secure. Instead of starting with “http”, the URL (i.e. the address) should start with “https” — it is as simple as that. By now most sites obey this basic rule and many website hosting services, like for instance GoDaddy or HostGator, make it mandatory to design and to run secure sites.

A secure site makes it almost impossible for prying eyes or hackers to see and copy what you are doing on the website, to “catch” passwords and other sensitive data you may be entering. Professional websites must necessary comply with the security measure and have a full address that starts with “https”. This is nothing new in the world of IT and Internet, but the stress has been put on websites over the past six months or so to comply with that rule. Some hosting services have even threatened to block access to the sites unless they follow the security rule.

There are various terms that refer to the additional “s” letter. It is frequently called SSL (Secure Socket Layer) or sometimes TLS (Transport Layer Security). The good news is that Internet users have nothing to do about it, except for making sure they are browsing an address that starts with “https”, not “http”. How to make a website safe and to get an address that does indeed start with “https” is entirely the duty and the work of the website administrator or webmaster, not the users’. It is technical work that those who visit the site have nothing to do with and should not worry about.

An example: you type “www.what-a-greatsite.com”. If your browser displays “http://www.greatsite.com” in the topmost left corner, then it is not secured. If it displays “https://www.greatsite.com” then it is. Of course, nothing prevents you in the first case of staying on the page and browsing the site. Just remember that it is not as safe as it should be.

Internet security is a never-ending matter and the biggest names on the web, including Facebook to name one, have to face hacking issues every now and then — and they do not hide it! Whereas the 100-per cent-safe web experience does not and will probably never exist, browsing only SSL-TLS enabled sites does certainly reduce hacking risks significantly.

Internet authorities are working on security protocols that are supposed to be even safer than the current SSL-TLS that are — by IT standards — considered to be somewhat old now. The first version dates back to 1995! It is expected that the replacement of SSL-TLS will be implemented in less than two years from now. Some IT experts think that it will still be SSL-TLS but newer, “much improved” versions of it. Which in either case implies that webmasters will have more to learn and consequently to do in order to secure their websites in the best possible way.

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