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The Quickest Way to Save Your Computer from Hacking

Last year, my computer was hacked. The criminals got my hold of my credit card information and charged it to the tune of four thousands dollars. It took many months of working my bank to get that money back. In the meanwhile, I tried to find out how they got into my computer in the first place. It turned out I had shopped on an online store whose security certificate had expired! Now how would I have known that or what should we all look for when visiting a website. That's what I want to talk to you about today.

How the Internet Works

The Internet is really an interconnected network of computers talking to each other. In order for them to understand each other they use some standard protocols. Think of a protocol as a system of rules: I will first give you this and then you will give me that. The protocol which our computers use to browse websites is HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). I am sure you have noticed http at the beginning of a website address.

The Machine Behind the Website Address

That address sits on a server, which is a computer machine. While you are browsing a website on your phone or laptop, your machine is communicating with this server. Whenever two such machines talk to each other, their connection is public. It is possible for hackers to listen in. This means they can intercept the personal data your computer sends to the website. That makes http insecure and very dangerous.

The Secure Alternative: HTTPS

In 1995, a secure version of this protocol was released. This version goes by HTTPS. The additional S indicates the your machine and the website server will exchange secret keys before they talk to each other. Hackers won’t won’t have the secret keys so they cannot listen in. Although this technique is not foolproof, it does make the Internet much safer. It actually makes it faster too. The new HTTP/2 protocol (read: faster Internet) requires HTTPS. So these are two good reasons for every website to go secure.

The Right Thing to Do With Insecure Sites

Unfortunately, some websites still don’t use HTTPS. The public HTTP protocol they use is insecure. Please avoid those websites. Your information and your machine might both be at stake. One way to check is to look at the URL of the website. Some browsers show a lock symbol in the browser window. If this lock symbol is broken, or the website shows http without the s, stay clear!

Raise Your Machine's Security Level

Many smartphones and laptops have built-in security settings. It's good advice to keep the security level high by default.

Now it’s your turn. What are some HTTP websites that you had been visiting frequently?


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