If you browse the web in Windows, the latest shenanigan that hackers are using to hijack your computer involves tricking you into pressing your F1 button to get help while browsing online. It seems like there is no end to the creativity of hackers targeting Windows users, and trying to be safe online while browsing in Windows is an exhausting, if not futile task.
If you must use Windows to browse the web, one of the most immediate, easy, and effective measures you can take is to use something other than Internet Explorer to browse the web. Those of us that are tech savvy take it for granted that we know about alternative browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and others, but many people do not. Google recently asked a number of ordinary people on the street what a web browser is, and many of them could not answer correctly. So if you don’t even know what a web browser is, don’t feel dumb; you’re not alone.
There seems to be a great deal of misunderstanding and ignorance regarding the fundamental tools that people use while browsing the web. In some ways, it’s not surprising. These things were never taught in school to the vast majority of people browsing the web, and you don’t learn anything unless you are taught or enthusiastic enough to figure it out on your own.
The 2 most fundamental tools are web browsers and search engines. A web browser is the program installed on your computer that you use to access the Internet. A search engine is a web site like Google, Yahoo, or Bing that lets you search for information online.
For many people, their browser is the little blue e on their desktop that opens Internet Explorer (IE), which is the stock web browser included with Windows and made by Microsoft. IE users are by far the most susceptible to hacking attacks because it is the most popular browser in use, most businesses use it, and as a group, IE users are less tech savvy than users of alternative browsers. The bad guys are naturally going to shoot at the biggest target.
So again, step 1 to protect yourself is to put yourself on a smaller target. If that was the only reason to switch away from IE, that would be enough. However, there are many other benefits. Browsers like Firefox and Chrome are faster than IE and better equipped to handle modern, complex web pages. Sites load faster, and your browser crashes less often. What’s more, browsers like Firefox are highly extendible, meaning that there are tons of add-ons that you can get for free that give you even more flexibility online. For example, you can get add-ons that block annoying ads from appearing in web pages. There are too many others to name.
If you don’t do anything else in this year to protect yourself and your family while browsing online, do this one thing: try another browser.