With the rapid growth of computer technologies, safe surfing has come to signify a set of principles, which internet and computer users need to follow to guarantee safety of all computer and internet activities. Safe surfing remains one of the major computer security issues due to the growing number of dangerous websites. Fisching and internet fraud can be successfully prevented if users are aware of the features and characteristics of dangerous websites. A set of computer software solutions was developed to protect users from Internet threats, and although literature regarding safe surfing is rather scarce, it would be interesting to review the most recent findings concerning safe surfing, as well as the knowledge, which computer technology professionals consider as the most critical element of safe surfing in the modern technological world.
It should be noted, that safe surfing has already turned into a kind of oxymoron, as far as the more available the Internet becomes to different groups of users, the more susceptible these become to various internet threats. In many instances, it is absolutely impossible to guarantee that users are protected from all existing kinds of frauds, but safe surfing can minimize these internet threats, to make sure that users can make everything possible to reduce the negative impact of the Internet on their computers, and their financial and other assets. At the current stage of IT research, the growing amount of literature is created to target broader population groups, and to deliver critical knowledge about computers and the Internet in language understandable to non-professional users. That is why many books on safe surfing are written in the form of simple guides.
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They describe the most common Internet threats and provide a set of guidelines, which any users can follow in their striving to make their Internet surfing safe. For example, in their book Dvorak, Pirillo, and Taylor suggest that to make surfing safe, users are “not to visit disreputable Web sites; not to buy things from suspicious people; not to assume downloads are safe; and not to give away their personal information” (290). The natural question is in what disreputable websites are, and how to distinguish suspicious buyers from the honest ones? The authors write that the websites using ActiveX elements, dealing with pornography, hacker tools, and pirated software are some of the most dangerous websites in the Internet space, and adjusting browser’s security settings is necessary to avoid the major security failures. A reasonable user should never send any financial information via email. Finally, and it is probably the simplest measure Dvorak, Pirillo, and Taylor recommend to undertake – users need to stay informed about the most recent security achievements and about the most recent and the most sophisticated computer frauds (296).
Certainly, these are the basic and the simplest guidelines a person should follow, when becoming an active Internet user; numerous websites also give a brief insight into the way Internet users should behave to protect themselves from privacy intrusions. These primarily cover younger audiences due to the fact that children are more vulnerable to misleading Internet content and are more likely to become the victims of others’ malicious intentions. For example, the official website of Attorney General of Virginia provides 10 simple rules for children, who are getting acquainted with the Internet (Attorney General of Virginia), and taking into account the role and the political impact which Attorneys usually have, it becomes obvious that safe surfing is gradually turning into a matter of the major social and technological concern.
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Unfortunately, these rules do not make it easier to guarantee that users are protected from criminal threats in the online space. Also, current technologies cannot increase the level of internet protection from the major online threats.
The problem is in that browsers that Internet users can access and use are characterized by the growing number of technological fallacies. Shinder writes that “so many security flaws have been found in IE. It seems as if a week doesn’t go by without another one – or several – being announces. However, the recommendation often overlooks the fact that during the same time period, vulnerabilities were also announced affecting Mozilla and Opera Web browsers”. Another problem is in that the more popular web browser is, the more likely it is to be attacked to hackers. Finally, given the growing popularity and the leading market status of Internet Explorer, it is usually more closely integrated with the operating system, and thus makes the whole system more vulnerable to its major technological flaws. This, however, does not mean that by using Internet Explorer users subject themselves to the growing number of threats. In reality, and Shinder confirms this fact, Web users and organizations can protect themselves from the most sophisticated threats. In his article, Shinder goes beyond the boundaries of amateur reading and gives a chance to look deeper into the essence of safe surfing. In his view, safe surfing cannot be limited to avoiding non-reputable websites, but should also involve restricting any Internet activity, in case there is sensitive data on the computer. Installing security patches and updates could also help reduce the discussed surfing risks: “there have been cases of e-mail purporting to be from Microsoft containing fake patches that actually contained malicious code” (Shinder). Using the latest version of a browser, using the strongest encryption for secure communications, disabling plug-ins not to run Java applets, and considering the use of more than one Web browser may resolve the majority of the current safe surfing issues. IT professionals should also be aware of the latest technological developments with regard to the Internet safety. For example, Ragan provides a detailed description of Firefox security and safe surfing add-ons, and the article provides direct access to the new secure downloads. Objectively, there is no guarantee that the link will not mislead non-experienced Internet users, and that the new download will not turn out to be another fraudulent solution.
Unfortunately, where IT professionals vote for increasing the level of technology protection, and where numerous websites and books describe simple and understandable rules of Internet use, non-experienced (and mostly young) Internet users are not very willing to change their online behaviors. Liau, Khoo and Ang researched safe surfing from the psychological perspective, concluding that adolescents keep their preferences private and never share then with parents (230). Thus, they initially close themselves from the safe internet opportunities.
It is characteristic of adolescents and non-experienced users to engage in risky online behaviors, that is why many safe surfing articles and books target these population groups. Simultaneously, resolving security issues is not possible without reconsidering psychological implications of such behaviors. The current development of computer technologies is integrally linked to the need for understanding human psychology, and it is this understanding that can guarantee the success of the major computer technology attempts. When IT professionals try to develop effective protection mechanisms and to improve the quality of all surfing procedures, these are impossible without understanding how users and hackers will react to these innovations. That is why to make surfing safe a holistic approach to internet security is required. This will finally cover broader technological issues and will take into account the principles of user behaviors online.
Safe surfing has already turned into a kind of oxymoron due to the fact that the Internet is gradually becoming a cluster of extremely dangerous frauds and technological solutions. Literature on safe surfing is scarce and mostly targets non-professional users, to provide them with a simple set of safety guidelines. However, developing effective protection mechanisms is impossible without understanding human psychology: IT professionals should be able to predict, how users and hackers will react to particular security innovations. Avoiding non-reputable websites is not enough to guarantee that surfing is safe, and simple actions should also be supplemented by effective technological approaches, including security patches, limited internet activity, and the use of the strongest encryption for secure communications.