The internet is a dark and scary place.? If you walk out in the open unprotected, be prepared to take what’s coming to you.

Think of the internet as a city; it has its nice places, and it has its scary and dark places that you would never dare go in to.? If you want to walk freely, you have to make sure you always are in a well-lit place, you have a group of friends and you know how to protect yourself in case you run into trouble.? Browsing online is a very similar concept, so try these ideas before you venture out into the online world!

Look at the ‘car’ you’re traveling in.? Does it have locks?? Is it safe?? Does it attract unwanted attention?? Your browser, the actual program you use to connect to the internet, is the first thing to examine before you venture out in the world.? The nicest cars will get the most attention along, with the worst cars, because they are either easy to break into or you know someone’s protecting a lot of valuable things in them.

If you want to travel in the nice and popular cars, such as Toyotas and Hondas, you would always make sure your car is equipped with the latest security features.? A car should have locks, an alarm and some proactive monitoring just as a browser should.? For a browser, if you use the popular Internet Explorer or Firefox, be prepared to face more attacks than some users of Chrome, Safari…etc.? The more popular a car or browser is, the more people know about it and the more they will try to get into it.? Try a new browser which has not had a lot of attention such as Google Chrome; its new, fast and its new arrival means less out there to infect it with!

If you insist on using Firefox or Internet Explorer, be sure to keep it up to date.? Those updates that warn you of their importance are not over exaggerating their relevance.? Critical leaks are patched every day, so the longer you wait to install them, the more time you give someone to break into your “car.”

Many people walk around wearing watches, necklaces and nice earrings.? It would be ridiculous to say that we should no longer wear our valuables and use our nice things in fear of the bad people out there looking to take them from us.? Adobe PDF Reader is very popular and highly used in the tech world, and PDF documents are popular in attracting trouble.? It’s outrageous to ask that we switch to a new reader, so once again, updates are important!? Be sure to constantly check if updates are available and if prompted, install them.

Just as the saying goes “never take candy from a stranger,” don’t fall for the same approach online.? Malicious and crazy advertisements are populating the online market and just clicking on those advertisements could infect your PC.? Would you try and talk to a random person on the street who was claiming to give out free laptops just for your signature? (I would hope not)? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Most free promotional advertisements or sites claiming they offer products for free are smart to avoid.

Social networking is huge today and is becoming another great way to attack and target unaware users.? When you leave for work in the morning, do you post a sign on your door to tell a visitor you are not home?? Sounds silly to normal people but it’s exactly what users do online.? There have been sites where people monitor twitter or facebook statuses just to see when people post things like “away for vacation,” or “home alone!” or “gone for the day…” and can find out when a house is in the open to be robbed.

Be safe, be smart, be happy.? It sounds simple when you practice it in the real world, so why not do it on the online world as well!