Tag Archives: internet

Online security basics: Clicking & downloading

Screenshot of Security Now video episodeNow our child is using computers and the web more and more, I’ve been thinking a lot about protecting children on the internet. There seems to be an endless list of things you should and shouldn’t do but I was struck by some simple advice in the latest Security Now episode (#507) that provides a lot of protection to start you off.

Regarding clicking links in emails, from 1:39:10 in the show Steve Gibson makes the distinction between mails that you’re expecting and mails that you’re not. In other words:

Don’t click links in emails that you weren’t expecting.

For example…

  • Probably safe: You register on a website and then get a confirmation email from them.
  • Probably safe: Your dad is looking to buy a motorbike and sends you a link to one on eBay.
  • Possible evil trap: An email from PayPal asks you to verify your details. To stay safe, you should go to PayPal’s site directly without clicking the email link.

Steve then goes on to mention another security expert, Brian Krebs, with this piece of advice:

Don’t download something you didn’t go looking for.

Super-sensible advice that actually works offline as well, for example in not signing up to financial offers and deals that you weren’t previously considering. Brian also has more basic rules for online safety that I recommend.

So there you go kids, follow these two rules and you’ll save yourself — and your nervous parents — a lot of trouble:

  1. Don’t click links in emails that you weren’t expecting.
  2. Don’t download something you didn’t go looking for.

The Internet, the Web and an old book

Cover of Running Linux bookNot long ago, I was explaining to a translator the difference between the Internet and the Web. Understandably they thought they were the same thing, as most people do.

Jump forward a few weeks and I’m packing boxes ready to move house, wondering what I can throw out. A dusty edition of Running Linux from 1996 — surely that can go, being so out-of-date? But flicking through it I noticed a chapter devoted to “The World Wide Web and Mail” and this little gem:

The WWW provides a single abstraction for the many kinds of information available from the Internet.

And there you have it. Much more succinct than my long-winded attempt at explaining the difference. But the part that made me smile was this:

The World Wide Web (WWW) is a relative newcomer to the Internet information hierarchy. The WWW project’s goal is to unite the many disparate services available on the Internet into a single, worldwide, multimedia, hypertext space. Although this may seem very abstract to you now, the WWW is best understood by using it.

A page from Running LinuxReading this 17 years after it was written, it almost seems quaint — it’s hard to imagine now that readers of a technical manual would not know what the Web is. And yet because the book assumes no previous knowledge it manages to teach a concept in a way that’s clear and stands the test of time.

Who says technical books lose their value as they get older?