Staying anonymous on the Internet: Tips for safe surfing

Anyone surfing the Internet quickly leaves traces - knowledge-hungry sites collect data or hackers infect PCs with viruses and Trojans. The following tips will help you surf the Web anonymously and safely.

Tip 1: Ten basic rules for improving your Internet security

Some basic rules should be observed when surfing the Web. The IT experts at TÜV NORD recommend ...

  • ... that you always install an antivirus and firewall program,
  • for modem and ISDN users: that you block premium rate numbers,
  • that you never open any unknown email attachments or send personal data to strangers,
  • that you review your browser security settings,
  • that you always use passwords with at least eight characters (ideally a combination of special characters, upper - and lowercase letters),
  • that you never save passwords, PINs or TANs on your PC,
  • That you regularly change online passwords,
  • that you regularly create backups for data security purposes,
  • that you ensure that children are never on the Internet without supervision; and last but not least:
  • That you remember the Internet is not a legal vacuum! 

Anyone who follows these principles has already laid a solid foundation for the safe use of the Internet.

Tip 2: Getting your browser ready to go

Before you set out on the information superhighway, you should select the correct Web browser. These days you have more than one Web browser to choose from for each operating system: from pre-installed browsers such as Internet Explorer on Windows or Safari on Apple Mac OS X to popular alternatives such as Firefox, Chrome, and Opera. What they all have in common is that they largely protect Internet users from online hazards. But if you want to be sure of avoiding viruses on your computer or involuntarily leaving personal data behind, you need to configure your browser properly.

TÜV NORD recommends that you change the setting for the deletion of your history. Ideally, your history will automatically be deleted as soon as the browser is closed. Users should also surf in private mode because this leaves hardly any traces. TÜV NORD also advises you to configure the settings for cookies and not to allow third parties to place cookies. The storage duration of sites you visit should also be as short as possible.

Tip 3: Regular updates

Whether they relate to your operating system, anti-virus software or Web browser, Security updates published by the manufacturer should always be installed immediately. You can’t surf the Web safely unless you regularly update your software.

Tip 4: Tuning your browser? Please be careful!

Modern Web browsers have long been universal solutions: They don’t just show Web pages but also allow users to watch movies, send e-mails or check their computers for security vulnerabilities with add-ons and plug-ins. TÜV NORD urgently recommends that you don’t tune your browser without a second thought, because not every extension from the Internet is harmless. If in doubt, Leave well alone or ask a specialist.

Tip 5: Dealing properly with videos

So that they can play the many different video formats on the Web, lots of Internet users install a piece of software as a browser plug-in. But TÜV NORD has a warning for them: Malicious third-parties can use manipulated videos to exploit vulnerabilities to collect data or smuggle in viruses. For this reason, the IT experts at TÜV NORD recommend that you regularly update the player software. You should ideally even restrict the automatic playback of videos: They should only play when prompted to do so by you.

Tip 6: Graphics and Web bugs: This is the key

Graphics on the Web often take the form of annoying ads. In the worst case, attackers use graphics to hack browsers via vulnerabilities or to transmit unwanted cookies. This is especially clear with Web bugs - tiny graphics invisible to the user that transmit cookies without being noticed. These allow site owners to track the sites you visit and to offer you tailored advertising. It isn’t all that easy for Internet users to protect themselves from unwanted graphics. According to TÜV NORD, one way to do so is to switch off graphics altogether It’s also possible to block graphics just from particular sites. But then you usually won’t get any images either.