However we need to take care when using the Internet to look for information, or to send information...
Reliability of Information
In many ways this is a good thing. It means that corrupt organisations or governments, who have always been able to hide details of their activities, are no longer able to do so. When bad things happen, people write about it on the Web and the world gets to know, and hopefully do something about it.
But it’s also a bad thing. It means that people or organisations can easily spread lies and hatred. There are thousands of websites containing bigoted viewpoints, and thousands more that are full of information that is biased, inaccurate, or just plain wrong.
So... how do you which web pages to believe, which information to trust?
- Check several sources of information (go to lots of different websites). If they all say the same thing, it is likely to be true
- Stick to websites that belong to trusted organisations. If the website address ends in .gov.uk (the UK government site) it is more likely to be reliable than one like www.tomiscool.net
- Look at the spelling and grammar used. Reliable websites are usually checked for errors. Too many spelling errors mean it’s probably not to be trusted.
Avoiding this type of material can be tricky. Many organisations such as schools, some governments (e.g. for religious reasons), and also many parents, make use of web page filtering software. This software attempts to prevent offensive and illegal material being accessed.
Even if filtering software is not installed on a computer, you can still take steps to help you avoid these types of sites:
- Use the 'safe search' feature on search engines such as Google.
- Don’t click the links that are shown in junk email (spam)
- Think carefully about the keywords that you use to search with.
Security of Data Transferred Using the Internet
Many websites, especially online shopping or online banking sites, require you to enter personal information, such as credit card numbers, social security IDs, etc. To make sure your data is safe, these websites use encryption - they are called secure websites.
You should always make sure that a website is secure before giving personal information...
- The website URL (address) should begin with https://... (normal, unsecure sites have addresses that start with http://...)
- Your web browser should show a closed padlock icon
Below are screenshots of two different web browsers, both showing a secure site. You can see the https://... URL and also the padlock icon:
'Phishing' is the nickname given to the sending of fraudulent e-mails that attempt to trick people into revealing details about their bank accounts, or other online accounts (e.g. Amazon, eBay, etc.)
The 'phishers' then use these bank details to login to the victim's bank account and take their money.
This is an example of a phishing e-mail...
This is exactly the scare tactic that phishers use to make people panic.
If you were to click the link, you would be taken to a fake bank website. Then if you were to enter your login details, these would be recorded by the phishers and used to empty your real bank account.
If you receive an e-mail / SMS / instant message / VOIP message asking for your username / password it is almost certainly a phishing attempt.
NEVER give out your username / password in response to any messages of any kind!
In a pharming attack, when you type in a completely genuine URL (e.g. for your online banking website), your computer is tricked into displaying a fake website (often a very accurate copy).
Then, when you try to login to the fake website, your username / password are recorded and used to take money from your real bank account.
It is very difficult to spot pharming attacks, because to the user everything seems to be normal.
Spam e-mails usually contain adverts for products...
If it wasn't for e-mail spam filters (which separate out spam messages from genuine messages, or 'ham') our e-mail systems would be unusable.