Smart internet surfing

Smartly surfing the web can make computing much more pleasant.

The World Wide Web

The Internet is accessed daily via the Internet by just about everybody on the planet these days. I could not imagine not having it available, and I am, like most people, addicted, even if I don't want to admit it. I need it; I want it. It has become like a drug. However, I am in control, and when I do use it, I use it smartly and responsibly. I have systems in place to protect my computer from viruses, and most importantly, I have current backups of my system to restore it if needed.

Surfing the web and not caring about what you do can lead to trouble. It could be something minor like a nuisance pop-up that appears or a potentially unwanted program or PUP. There seems to be a never-ending list of things that can happen simply by opening an internet browser. Every day people forget the risks and go surfing, not caring about anything, seemingly unaware of the danger lurking in the dark recesses es of the Internet. Their computer is slow and sluggish the next day, but it won't get better with time. It will just get worse.

Where to Start

So how to prevent this from happening. First, one must see the Internet for what it is. The Internet houses millions and millions of computers tied to millions and millions of servers. All these computers and servers have faceless people behind them looking at a flat representation of the Internet. Seeing only the one page, people forget how many unknown people are out there and that these people are, in a sense, the website we visit. Just as this website is my business PCMD's face on the web. Do people know who I am? Maybe? A Google search may tell them something about me where I live, my phone number, or any data they are so inclined to search for, but that doesn't change the fact that this site, like any other site, can take your personal computer down.


There are ads on this site, which are a big problem with the Internet. Companies take over a site's ads and present fake ads to people. This site could also have a fake page created by a third party who has modified a link to redirect you to another site on their server. This is a bit different from a website with updated information or changed a page name and would like you to go to the new page instead of the old one. To help prevent these issues, you could use an ad blocker. However, today's ad blockers are working with the advertisers and large websites, allowing them to decide what ad is acceptable to serve you.

Keyboard Shortcuts for Internet Browsers

To reduce information collected when browsing the Internet, use modern browsers' built-in privacy modes.

When the browser is open try these shortcuts.

Press and hold each button in order, then release.
Chrome Incognito Mode -- Ctrl+Shift+N
Internet Explorer In Private Browsing -- Ctrl+Shift+P

These modes don't hide you or prevent someone from knowing who you are or where you have been, but they do help by not saving information on your PC. This eliminates a maintenance step because you would not need to clear your browser cache or history. Unless you take steps to conceal yourself, someone like your internet service provider knows exactly where you have been.

Online Security

The Internet is just full of unknowns, and it is constantly changing, so installing and maintaining security software is a must when using Windows or Android-based hardware. Security software is taken for granted and left alone until it's too late. It is crucial to monitor your program of choice. You must keep it up to date and complete scans regularly. Simply having an anti-virus is not a guarantee by any means. They too, are targets and can be quickly disabled. Many people swear they can use a PC for years with no anti-virus software. This may be true, but when using a Windows-based computer without an anti-virus program, they would be required to do their own detection and virus removal. The easier way is to use an anti-virus and take the time to keep it up to date. For more information, please read our article Windows Virus Help.

Internet Downloads

When it comes to downloading files on the Internet, it is essential not to download everything of interest and, most importantly, pay attention to the source of all downloads. When confirming the download source, please pay attention to the link information, and make sure the site providing the file has some connection to it. To put it simply, if you want Apple's iTunes, then download it from Apple's website. Some sites are full of phony download links designed to get you to click on them. The website host does not care if you get the wrong product because they get paid for your mistake. Take time and pay close attention to the download link. There is no easy way to describe what the correct link would look like. Finding the right link can be a crap shoot because there are so many variables.

Website Stating Update Application to View

When you land on a web page that states you need to update an application like adobes flash, do not do it. If you feel you must update, go to the software manufacture site and see if an update is available. Then install the update from them. When using internet browsers like Google, you no longer need to update Flash manually; it is automatic and included in the application. However, at the time of writing, Firefox uses its own version of Flash and must be updated. The best way is to go to the manufactures site using Firefox, not a different browser, and install.

Hardware Firewalls

The first defense against the Internet is your connection to it. Do not simply connect a computer directly to a modem. Many people do this, and it is just an unerase risk. Even if you do not intend to connect wirelessly to your local area connection or LAN, most wireless routers include firewalls. The use of wireless routers for the built firewall is an easy and affordable way to help secure a personal computer.

Clear your Internet Browser Cache

By now, just about everyone has heard to clear their cache. To recap about clearing your cache's importance, I will quickly go over it. Internet browsers like Microsoft Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Apple's Safari, Opera, Google's Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox store data on your PC called cache. The first time you visit a page, the data is cached. As you return to that page, new information is cached. Over time, unnecessary data accumulates, which can cause longer load times, and this data can harbor viruses or cause pages not to load. You can clear your browser from within your internet browser of choice. The steps for each internet browser are different; however, it is usually located under Tools-Safety-Delete browsing history. Clear your internet cache regularly to keep your internet browsing experience running smoothly. This helps with the performance of your internet browsers. This should be done at least monthly or when you notice websites that are not loading correctly or slower than usual.

Using Peer to Peer (P2P) Programs

There are many different peer-to-peer or P2P programs available. Peer-to-peer is the basic connection where many users share the file or data transfer load. A shared movie can have many computers moving that file in pieces across the Internet. This can significantly reduce file download or transfer times.

Peer-to-peer or P2P programs such as lime wire, bit torrent, and Morpheus may need to be configured to keep your computer secure. Some create a shared folder on your computer. Anything inside this folder becomes available to others who use the program. Depending on the program and settings, they can see, copy or even add files to your computer. Take some time and learn about the program you use, and you could save yourself from accidentally making private files very public.

In October 2009, Morpheus's parent company filed bankruptcy, and in October 2010 - Limewire was court-ordered not to distribute the program. These programs were created for sharing files, movies, and music. It was only a matter of time before they took legal action. Like most things on the Internet, these programs are still available, and we recommend that they not be used and uninstalled if found installed.

Peer-to-peer programs and the software acquired are popular with the spyware community. It is not uncommon to download a malicious payload with the program, thus installing spyware on your computer yourself. In PCMD's experience, the more file-sharing programs on a computer, the more severe the virus, spyware, malware, and rogue program infestation. However, this is very dependent on the end user's behaviors while using such programs. If you like them, then use them. There is a risk of viruses and possible legal action depending on what is downloaded or shared.

Typo Squatting

Criminals hope you make mistakes or typos when going to popular websites. These websites seem to have relevant information and a variety of links. Do not assume the site is safe, and do not click on any links. Do not do it if the page wants to install any update to a program. To close pop-ups and open windows, instead of selecting close or the red X, try using Alt+F4 to close the open program. This can help to reduce the chance of installing something on your PC. If this happens, it is a good idea to clear your internet browser cache immediately.

Drive by Installers

Drive-by installers exploit security holes in programs that access the Internet. To protect yourself, keep your operating system up to date, use virus and malware protection programs to help against attacks. This also means keeping most if not all programs up to date. Even if a program does not access the Internet, it could still allow a malformed webpage on the Internet to access it and attack your PC. Malware can detect unpatched internet browsers, programs, and all versions of Windows then quietly install. There are numerous effects, from nothing to all-out virus and malware infestation.