As your children get older, they become more familiar with the Internet and often want to browse the Web alone. This is a great way for them to learn, complete school projects, play games, listen to music, and more. However, there are potential risks, with spyware, malware, spam, phishing and other scams out there that can cause harm to your computer and compromise your personal information.
If you feel you child is old enough to surf the Web alone, you can ensure their privacy simply by teaching them about the browser tools available to them and how they are used.
The first step to ensure the safest possible Internet browsing is to upgrade your browser to the most recent version, as providers are always working to integrate the latest security advances into their applications.
In this article, JustAskGemalto outlines the Web safety tools available on the three most popular browsers, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, and from computer security companies McAfee and Symantec.
With the latest version Internet Explorer, IE9, Windows offers the SmartScreen Filter. This is a tool that you can show your children how to turn on, and the browser does the rest. SmartScreen features these tools:
- • Anti-phishing protection: Identifies imposter websites that are looking to take personal information like usernames and passwords.
- • Application Reputation: Shows your children very high warnings if they are about to download something very risky, but will remove warnings for well know and reputable files.
- • Anti-malware protection: Alerts will prevent harmful software from entering your computer.
SmartScreen Filter will check the sites your child visits against a list of reported phishing sites and malicious software sites, and is updated multiple times a day. If it finds a match, your kids will see a red warning notifying you that the site has been blocked for your safety. If they attempt to download a program that requires changes to your computer, an alert will appear. It is best to teach your children to let you know when this happens, so you can make an informed decision about whether or not to download the application.
The SmartScreen Filter is easy to turn on. Show these steps to your children, or do it with them:
- • In Internet Explorer, click the “Safety” button. Point to “SmartScreen Filter,” and then click “Turn On SmartScreen Filter.”
- • In the Microsoft SmartScreen Filter dialog box, click OK.
Lastly, Internet Explorer offers a fast way to check if a specific website is safe for viewing. Simply go to a website that you want to check in Internet Explorer, click the “Safety” button, point to “SmartScreen Filter” and then click “Check This Website.”
Google Chrome has many security measures that will keep your kids safe when you are surfing the Web. Many of them are enabled by default, but you can change them at any time. These are the tools available:
- • Phishing and malware protection: Google Chrome will warn you and/or your children if it detects that the website you are attempting to visit has malicious content like spyware, malware, or other viruses.
- • Manage SSL certificates and settings: SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and it encrypts sensitive data communications. You always want to make sure that SSL is enabled.
These settings can be found by clicking the wrench icon on the upper right corner of the browser toolbar. Next, select “Options,” then click the “Under the Hood” tab. Here you will find all of the settings to adjust. Show older kids how to implement the proper settings, and why they make it safer to surf the Web.
Mozilla Firefox has a feature that allows your kids to quickly view the identity credentials of a website. Clicking the “favicon” (the little picture identifying the website to the left of the address bar) shows them an overview of the site, and whether it has been deemed safe or suspicious. Clicking again displays a more detailed view, like how many times the site has been visited and/or whether passwords are saved. Note that using your browser to save passwords is not secure; see Are you practicing safe password practices? for more information.
Beyond this, Firefox provides a good array of security features, such as:
- • Virus Protection: If your kids come across a site with a virus, malware, spyware, worms, Trojan horses, or any other kind of attack, Firefox will divert you from the site and give you the reasons why.
- • Phishing protection: Firefox has a list of phishing and forged websites that is updated multiple times throughout the day. If you try to visit a forged website, Firefox will alert you immediately.
- • Antivirus integration: Firefox works together with your antivirus software. So, when you download a file, the antivirus software will immediately check it for viruses or other malicious content.
To view your Firefox security settings, go to “Tools,” and then select “Options.” Next, select the “Security” tab. Security options are turned on by default, but it is a good best practice to check that these are selected before your kids start browsing:
- • Block reported attack sites
- • Block reported Web forgeries
McAfee Site Advisor
McAfee Site Advisor is free and works along with your Web browser for Internet security. With the software, your kids can view website safety ratings and use McAfee’s secure search box.
McAfee conducts its research for its safety ratings by actually visiting thousands of websites each day and testing them for a multitude of security threats.
Once you install the SiteAdvisor software, your browser will have a new toolbar and McAfee search box. Now, next to each result you will find a small rating icon that will tell you whether the site is safe or risky. These icons can be fun to study with your kids:
Teach your kids that green means “go,” and the website is ok to visit, and red means “stop,” and this website is unsafe to visit. To be extra safe, tell them that a yellow symbol or a question mark should also be avoided unless they ask you first.
Norton Safe Web Like McAfee, Symantec also offers a free searching tool that works along with your browser, called Norton Safe Web. Norton Safe Web has two features, a website where you can enter the address of a specific site and get its security rating, and a toolbar for safe Web searching.
Norton Safe Web provides website safety ratings directly in your Google, Yahoo! and/or Bing search results. The icons are green are a safe website, orange for a potentially risky website, and red for a high-risk website. Again, these icons are an easy way for your kids to know whether to “go,” “stop,” or “proceed with caution.”
Along with the Web site ratings, Norton Safe Web will alert you if a website has a dangerous download in it, and/or if an online seller raises suspicions.
To Sum Up:
- • Allowing your older kids to browse the Internet is a great way for them to learn, do school work, and play games, but teaching them safe browsing and searching practices is a must to avoid viruses, malware, spyware, phishing, and other threats
- • Popular Web browsers Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have Internet browsing security built right in that can alert children when they are about to enter a potentially dangerous website
- • Computer security companies McAfee and Symantec also have free downloads available for secure Web searching that gives websites easy to view and understand ratings right in your search results