The Internet – Opportunities and Threats

Internet Security

Isn’t it amazing that, not even 20 years since we first started hearing mention of a thing called the ‘internet’, we can now do absolutely EVERYTHING, or almost EVERYTHING online !!! We can buy clothes, furniture and even go food shopping, rend videos, listen to music, find plumbers, carpenters, locksmiths, banks and even look at properties and rooms to rent!

Nevertheless, I did just that, I looked for a room to rent online, and have a little anecdote to share with you, given that the experienced proved to be a bit of an eye-opener.

I had just moved to London and was looking to move flats. Naturally I went onto one of the many online flat share websites and saw a room that was, ‘way too good to be true’. Located in the very centre of London and at a ridiculously cheap price, the first thing that struck me as strange was that having started chatting on messenger to the girl who was apparently ‘renting the other room’ and who would be my flatmate, she made continual grammar mistakes in English. This was strange as she was supposed to be English; her name was ‘Jane Smith’. As our msn messenger conversation progressed to the point where she wanted me to pay her £1000 up front and in cash when we met to see the room at Oxford Circus, I realised that it was a scam! However, when I confronted her saying I’d just reported her to the flat share website administrator for being a fraudster, she, turned out to be a he, or several he’s: a team of dedicated scammers. What was even more disturbing was that they then said to me: ok, well we know where you live and we have your photo (from msn messenger), so you’re going to pay for this!

Startled, I then came up against a new problem: Entering my family name online, pulled up an old CV that I couldn’t seem to get rid of! When you typed in my name it was still there, the entire CV, with my photo, address and everything, despite having taken away the link that it had originally been on! So, in essence, pretty much my whole life was out there on line!!! I was even considering approaching the police, because I was so alarmed at how easily the people in question or anyone for that matter could track me, down with just by entering my name into Google!

That was what got me interested in Online Security and made me question, what type of screening, if any that flat share website, or any website, in fact, actually carried out on its potential users.

From the research that I carried out, it seemed clear to me that the best way that an online company or any company or individual trader with an online presence can protect both themselves and their users/customers is by becoming SSL certified.

SSL (Secure Socket Layer) provides the means to ‘padlock’ information, encrypting it, so that it can’t get into the wrong hands.

One of the main ways to check whether an internet connection is SSL protected is to check its web address. If a website is protected its address will start with https: (SECURE Hypertext Transfer Protocol) rather than just http. What is more, most SSTL protected websites often feature a padlock symbol at the bottom of the page, and the address bar is often coloured green, to identify it as a secure address.

There are currently 3 types of SSL certificates out there on the market; ranging from the most basic, the self-certification, which, as its name implies, does not involve vetting or examination, thereby making it the least secure. There is then, the Domain Validation certification, which verifies who actually owns a given ‘domain’. The last kind of certification is the most complete as it entails a much more rigorous validation procedure and evaluations and ascertains whether a business actually exists, who owns the domain and whether the user is legitimate, thereby guaranteeing the highest level of security.

For more information on SSL certificates and internet security in general you can check out the following interactive guide where you will find a whole range of well compiled information on the topic:

SSL Certificates

About the author:

by Bea

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