Protect yourself online
Boost privacy and security when using the internet.
Now let’s make your internet connection more secure, starting with your DNS server. This is used to translate web addresses into their physical IP addresses. Normally, your DNS server is provided by your ISP, but it’s not the best choice for performance and security reasons. Alternatives such as OpenDNS are faster, more reliable and, crucially, apply more security checks to validate web addresses. With OpenDNS, you can sign up at its website ( www.opendns. com) for things like parental controls and identity theft protection.
Alternatively, log in to your router, locate where its DNS settings are stored, and then change them to the following addresses: 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206. The effect will be immediate. If you lose your connection, check that you’ve added them correctly.
If you have any devices you use away from home, you can change their DNS settings to OpenDNS, too — in the case of a Windows 10 PC, you need to type “network” into the Search box and click ‘View network connections’. Doubleclick your adapter’s entry and click Properties, then select ‘Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4)’ and click Properties. Select ‘Use the following DNS server addresses’ and enter 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168 into the two boxes, then click OK.
SECURE WIRELESS CONNECTIONS
When you’re on the go, it’s tempting to connect to any public wireless hotspot, even ones that don’t ask you for a password. The problem is, these are often completely open, allowing anyone to eavesdrop on you. That’s where a VPN comes in.
A VPN creates a ‘tunnel’ through a public network, that enables you to connect to the internet, with all the traffic to and from your device encrypted. If you just want to browse the web, install the Opera web browser ( www.opera.com), which includes its own VPN. Look for the VPN button in your Address Bar (you can enable it via ‘Menu > Settings > Privacy & security’). Click it, flick the switch to ‘On’ to encrypt your web browsing. If you want to widen VPN support to all your network traffic, the simplest solution is to install CyberGhost VPN ( www.cyberghostvpn. com), which can encrypt your entire connection. The free version is unlimited, but slow — pay the US$10.99 monthly fee for faster performance.
MORE SECURE WEB BROWSING
Your internet connection may now be secure, but you can still do more. Opera comes with its own built-in ad blocker, which can help you avoid adverts as well as malware, but if you are using another browser, install the Adblock Plus plugin instead.
It’s also a good idea to connect securely to websites when you can, using the ‘https://’ protocol rather than the insecure ‘http://’ one. Remembering this is tricky, so install the open-source Smart HTTPS add-on, and it will try to connect securely.
Half of the trick of staying safe online lies in avoiding dodgy websites. While web browsers are smarter at detecting and diverting you from sites that are known to be dangerous, there’s always room for improvement. See what web-filtering tools your security software offers in the form of a browser toolbar and use it to search the web instead of Google.
Similarly, be careful with software downloads — get them from a reputable website and scan the file with your anti-malware tool before running it. Exercise similar caution with browser add-ons — review each one before you install it, and periodically check which add-ons have been installed, removing any you no longer need or recognise.
It’s a similar story with email. Avoid clicking any links and instead type the URL into your web browser directly to ensure you end up going where you think you should. You should also scan email attachments before opening them, and employ the services of tools such as Mailwasher ( www.mailwasher. net) or PopTray ( www.poptray.org) to screen messages before they land.
Emailing someone is akin to sending a postcard — anyone can read it. If you use Thunderbird, check out the step-by-step guide to find out how to encrypt email.
OpenDNS’s servers offer a safer, more reliable way to browse the web.