On the internet, we can find endless information about anything we might think. However, we need to be alert and cautious if we want to protect our valuable data. In this article, we are going to explore the best options for internet safety and parental control on a browser to secure our online presence.
Table of Contents
- How important is internet safety
- Tips for better internet safety
- Browser update
- Using an antivirus program
- Websites and downloads
- Be cautious for phishing attacks
- Check if there's a https://
- Never use the same password
- Online banking transaction notifications
- Using VPN in public networks
- Browser settings for internet safety
- Google Chrome security settings
- Mozilla Firefox security settings
- Parental control through browser
- Are you concerned about internet safety?
How important is internet safety
There's no doubt that the internet is the modern Library of Alexandria. It contains a huge portion of knowledge, while we're also able to find millions of cat videos.
Thus, the biggest advantages of the internet can turn to even greater dangers. Not because of the cats, of course.
In the billions of web pages, we can find most of them are safe and useful. But there are plenty of harmful ones as well.
The dangers can vary from illegal content, malware, and economic frauds, to people with bad intentions, who use the internet as a way to approach their victims.
So, it's critical for us to maintain internet security in every possible way. Not only for us but more importantly for our children, who gain access to the web in increasingly younger ages.
Internet safety and parental control may seem confusing at first. But with a small effort, persistence, and the right tools, we can skyrocket our security.
Tips for better internet safety
Before we move on to the settings for internet safety, we need to lay a few ground rules.
Sadly, no program can protect us 100%; we need to be aware of possible dangers while using the internet. Thus, it's wise to have in mind a few important tips, which will help us increase our internet safety.
We all use a browser to go online, whether it is Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, Internet Explorer/Microsoft Edge, other alternatives, or a variation of them.
No matter what browser we use, it's essential to keep it updated.
The updates not only offer new features or change the appearance. Most of them patch up security holes and fix various problems and bugs. That's why we must always have the latest version.
The good news is that most browsers are automatically updated, and they might just require a simple restart.
Using an antivirus program
In the past, viruses and malware had been just an annoyance, which in the worst case scenario made us format our computer. There were a few rare ones that weren't even dangerous, just slightly annoying.
These times are long gone, though.
Now, some keyloggers can track our card numbers or email and Facebook passwords. Ransomware viruses encrypt our files and blackmail us to pay for their recovery. There are also remote administration tools that can take full control of our computer.
Having an updated and enabled antivirus is more important than ever for our internet safety.
Most of the antivirus programs can now even protect our personal data.
Moreover, it's important to use tested antivirus programs, which offer us trusted protection and frequent updates.
If we don't want to spend money, we can choose between a wide variety of free solutions.
Beware the Firewall
If the antivirus program we use doesn't offer a firewall protection, we must make sure that we have installed and enabled Windows' built-in firewall.
If for any reason it's disabled, Windows will notify us. We must not ignore this notification.
These solutions increase internet safety against various threats we might face.
Websites and downloads
Many users believe that with an updated antivirus they're completely protected from everything. Sadly, that is not the case.
Every year, thousands - if not millions - of new malware is created all around the world and gets distributed through the internet.
In lab tests, the best antiviruses can locate 100% of malware threats. But in reality, something is bound to slip past the protection, especially if we're talking about Zero Day Exploit.
The Zero Day Exploits are security holes than hackers can find before the company provides any security patches for the affected app.
Thus, even with the best antivirus, we must be careful of what sites we visit, what files we download, and what programs we run on our computer:
- Avoid cracked games and programs
- Don't visit pirate movie sites
- Avoid installing Android apps from .apk if their source isn't secure
- If you get a weird message with an attached file on your email, Facebook, or anywhere else, even from a trusted contact, never open and run the attached file unless you confirm it's safe.
Particularly the last method is known to spread malware, for example, the 2014 Facebook virus.
Anyone who was infected by the virus was sending infected messages to all of his friends. The ones who opened and run the attached file got infected too and started spreading the infection as well.
So if we ever get a similar message with an unexpected attached file, we ask the person who sent it to us if they meant to do so.
If their answer is negative, we immediately delete the message and suggest them to check their computer for viruses and malware.
Be cautious for phishing attacks
One of the most successful internet scams is "phishing" (pronounced like fishing).
The most common type of phishing is when we supposedly received an email from our bank.
The message says that our account is outdated, or something similar. It always says to click on a link or log in our account.
If we click on it, it'll lead us to a page that looks identical to our bank's page but has an entirely different address.
If we don't suspect a thing and fill our passwords, we will give full access to the sender of the email on our bank account.
Technically, this is not malware, so that no antivirus can protect us from it.
For the purpose of internet security, it's essential to be careful on what we click and on what websites we fill our passwords.
A password manager can come in handy because it won't fill the form on the wrong internet site.
Check if there's a https://
Pages that use the "https://" protocol add an extra internet safety level, in contrast to sites that use the "http://" protocol.
Also, the existence of "https://" will help us avoid any phishing attempts as the one we previously mentioned.
Never use the same password
Using the same password for all services and web pages is one of the worst things we can do for internet security.
We must always use a different password for every service, app, and website.
A password manager will help us here as well; it can create new and secure passwords for every site and store them automatically. In effect, we only need to memorize a single password, for the manager itself.
Online banking transaction notifications
If we're using e-banking, it's an excellent idea to enable notifications.
If you can't find a setting like this for your bank, you can contact support, and they will help you out.
By having alerts for every transaction, we'll know if someone tries to hack into our account, or if there are any unauthorized transactions.
Using VPN in public networks
If we want to connect to a public WiFi network, for example at a coffee shop, we have to be very careful.
A simple practice to boost our internet safety is the use of a VPN. There are numerous free VPN services, but for maximum speed and internet safety, we have to use a paid one.
The same thing applies to Facebook.
Gmail won't function either, at least the full version.
Also, most comment systems will be dysfunctional, and we might have a problem seeing pictures, as in PCsteps' posts.
We only suggest that on the browser our kids use, where we want only specific websites to function correctly.
Cookies are small files our browser uses to remember important things in every website we visit.
For example, we need cookies to log in to any account. By disabling cookies, we won't be able to connect to webmail, Facebook, and most other services.
We also won't be able to store our preferences to any site, for example, language or country on YouTube.
Also, if we disable or keep deleting cookies, we'll see non-stop pop-ups to sign in Newsletters. Usually, these only appear the first time we visit a website if we don't delete cookies.
The same thing applies to warnings about accepting cookies that are mandatory based on an EU law.
When we delete cookies, in every website we visit, a pop-up will appear to inform us about them.
This is why it's a viable solution only in browsers little kids use because they don't need access to webmail or Facebook.
Browser settings for internet safety
A browser is essential when using the internet. Every modern browser has options and settings to increase our internet safety.
Before we start searching for third-party apps or services, we have to secure our browser first.
Google Chrome security settings
Years after Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, even Opera, Google created Chrome. But in just a few short years, it became the most popular browser in the world.
Before even tweaking it, it provides excellent internet security. From the installation, it's set to offer worry-free browsing.
But if we change a few settings, we can improve our internet security when browsing.
We can find the most important security settings on Chrome just by clicking on the three squares on the top right and then choose "Settings."
A significant number of Chrome's users have connected the browser with their Google account. However, it is better to avoid storing some private data online, or at least we should try to secure it.
Of course, if we haven't connected our browser with Google there's no reason to do so. We need this feature only if we're interested in backing up our settings.
If we're connected with Google, on the "People" category we press the arrow next to "Sync." It shows a list of the information and settings we can sync.
We make sure that the "Sync Everything" option is disabled so we can make changes as we wish.
We need to make sure these options aren't enabled:
- Credit cards and addresses using Google Payments
So, for example, if our Google account gets hacked, our sensitive data will remain private.
Since we are interested in internet safety, it's better if we type this information every time it's needed. We can also use a password manager, as we already mentioned.
In the “Encryption options” we choose “Encrypt synced data with your sync passphrase.” We type a strong passphrase and confirm it.
Encrypting with this passphrase is safer than using a password.
In case someone tries to hack into our account, they will additionally need the passphrase to have access to our data.
At the bottom of the page, we click on"Advanced" to open the advanced browser settings.
Here we'll find several options to increase our internet safety. However, we need to be careful when we make any changes.
Privacy and security
Starting with "Privacy and security,” we enable “Send a “Do Not Track” request with your browsing traffic.” A window will appear warning us, where we press "CONFIRM."
We leave the rest of the fields as is since they create an environment for faster browsing and better internet safety.
Usually, disallow tracking prevents the websites to monitor our activity online. Few web pages choose to honor our request, but it is still better than nothing.
Further down our guide, we'll see the content settings. Most users don't need to do any changes since these parameters are used only for particular cases.
Passwords and forms
In this segment, we choose not to store our passwords on our browser. We click on the arrow next to "Manage Passwords" and turn the switch to off.
We could disable the filling of forms, but it won't particularly benefit our internet safety, and it is a sacrifice we can make for convenience.
On the "System" segment it's better to deselect "Continue running background apps when Google Chrome is closed."
Most users don't want their apps to run in the background.
Also, if by mistake we installed a malicious extension, we don't want to allow it to run when our browser isn't running.
On the "Privacy and Security" from the arrow on the left of "Content settings," we can choose our preferred actions for the web pages' content.
Thus, we only suggest these settings on our kids' browsers and not our own.
If we decide to block the cookies, we click on "Cookies" and on "Blocked" to disable them. We should also enable the “Block third-party cookies” option.
Right below we see three categories, "Block" that disallows cookies, "Clear on exit" that allows them but cleans them when we close our browser, and "Allow."
With the help of "ADD" option, we set exceptions of web pages that won't follow the rules we set.
We'll leave the rest of the settings to recommended since they are already set for maximum internet safety.
Mozilla Firefox security settings
Mozilla's browser offers plenty of great internet safety options, but there are some we can tweak to improve our security.
To access Firefox's settings, we click on the three lines on the top right and go to "Options." Alternatively, we can type "about:preferences" at the address bar.
On the left, there is a list of tabs, while on the right we have access to each tab's settings window.
On the "Privacy" tab we click on the "Manage your Do Not Track settings."
On the Do Not Track windows we enable the "Always apply Do Not Track" option.
Same as Chrome, this setting won't apply to all websites.
On the "History" section, we can change the cookies settings or choose Custom settings for history. Thus, we can deselect the "Accept cookies from sites" box to disable the cookies and from the "Exceptions...", we can set exclusions.
In the "Security" category we only need to turn off the accounts' memorization so that Firefox won't store our passwords.
We can only disable it completely through about:config.
If this is our first time on about:config, our browser warns us not to change any paraments that we're not familiar with, because we might create problems.
Optionally, we can uncheck the box so the warning won't appear again. We press the button "I accept the risk" to continue to about:config.
Flash is a problematic technology full of security holes, bugs, and zero-day exploits. However, many sites still need it to function properly.
When we finish installing Flash, we click the three lines on the top right and click on "Add-ons."
On "Plugins", we find "Shockwave Flash" and choose from the drop down menu "Ask to Activate." That way, any website that requires Flash will ask us to enable it.
Parental control through browser
Internet safety is important for every user, no matter their age. However, the children are more prone to online dangers than adults, and it's our responsibility to ensure their safe browsing.
Apart from parental control programs, there are browser settings and add-ons that can help us manage their safety.
Parental Control on Google Chrome
Google surprised us a few years ago with an announcement and embodiment of its own parental control tool on Chrome.
The name of Google's tool is "Users under surveillance"; and it's a bit more than adding a user.
To add a user to Google's browser, we go to Settings.
On the category "People" we click "Manage other people," and on the pop-up window we choose "ADD PERSON."
In that window we set an icon for our kid, give a name, and enable the "Supervise this person to control and view websites they visit from your Google Account” option. Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it?
Under there we choose our Google account. We finish the procedure with "SAVE."
This option will allow us to check our kid's activity online. We must make sure that our email address is correct.
Now, as we can see, our kid has its own account. On the bottom right, there's an icon of two people. This is the symbol of parental control and marks that this is a supervised user.
We can access Google's parental control if we click on "Supervised user control board" or if we type “chrome.com/manage” in the address bar and hit Enter.
The control board is well designed. On the left, we see a list of the supervised users. If we select our kid's account, on the right part, we'll see our options.
We choose "Management" next to "Rights," and here we can set restrictions on what websites our kid can visit.
Also, it would be smart to enable secure search. To do so, we click "Unlock Safe Search" on the right.
In case our kid tries to visit a website he's not allowed to, he'll see the following screen, and he will have to request access.
We can monitor the permission requests from "Requests" on the control board, where we can approve them or not.
Lastly, there's "Activity," in which we can see what our kid has done.
We can filter the results per day, week, or month, and allow or not the access to any web page we want.
Those were the options in Users Under Surveillance from Google. If we want to set some restrictions, this is a simple yet powerful tool.
Parental Control with Extensions
Of course, apart from Chrome's embedded parental control tool, there are extensions we can use for this purpose and internet safety. These extensions are available for almost all browsers.
Adult Blocker is an extension that helps prevent visiting pornography, abusive, or violence websites.
It's free and available for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. We can install it by either searching on the respective extension stores or by visiting its official page.
When we finish with the installation, it will create an icon on the top right of our browser.
We click on it and create a password so we can manage it.
The extension is very straightforward and simple to use. As we can see in the picture below, it shows us in what page we are at (1), or if the page contains something forbidden (2).
Moreover, we can add pages to a whitelist (3) or a blacklist (4), and enable or disable the plugin (5).
In the bottom, we can see the amount of blocked content on the page (6), while with the gear, we can open the extension settings (7).
To enter the extension settings, we'll need to type our password.
On the Adult Blocker's settings page, we can see what exceptions we have set (1) and hide the icon from the browser bar (2).
As it's reasonable, we can change our password if we want just by typing our previous one (3), and then twice the new one (4).
With a simple test we can see that even with a forbidden search, our kid will see the following screen. If he tries to add the page to exceptions, he'll need our passcode.
Adult Blocker is a simple yet powerful tool for internet safety. It can effectively protect our kids from the vast majority of websites, without eliminating the access online.
Are you concerned about internet safety?
The internet is a vital tool, and we can use it in many ways.
However, we must always keep in mind that dangers are right around the corner and we need to be prepared.
Do you think the default browser settings are enough? Or are you going to do something more to ensure higher internet safety? Leave a comment below.
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