Cyber security Basics for Beginners

What information is collected?

When you visit a website, a certain amount of information is automatically sent to the site. This information may include the following:

  • IP address – Each computer on the internet is assigned a specific, unique IP (internet protocol) address. Your computer may have a static IP address or a dynamic IP address. If you have a static IP address, it never changes. However, some ISPs own a block of addresses and assign an open one each time you connect to the internet—this is a dynamic IP address. You can determine your computer’s IP address at any given time by visiting www.showmyip.com.
  • domain name – The internet is divided into domains, and every user’s account is associated with one of those domains. You can identify the domain by looking at the end of URL; for example, .edu indicates an educational institution, .gov indicates a US government agency, .org refers to organization, and .com is for commercial use. Many countries also have specific domain names. The list of active domain names is available from the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).
  • software details – It may be possible for an organization to determine which browser, including the version, that you used to access its site. The organization may also be able to determine what operating system your computer is running.
  • page visits – Information about which pages you visited, how long you stayed on a given page, and whether you came to the site from a search engine is often available to the organization operating the website.

If a website uses cookies, the organization may be able to collect even more information, such as your browsing patterns, which include other sites you’ve visited. If the site you’re visiting is malicious, files on your computer, as well as passwords stored in the temporary memory, may be at risk.

How can you limit the amount of information collected about you?

  • Be careful supplying personal information – Unless you trust a site, don’t give your address, password, or credit card information. Look for indications that the site uses SSL to encrypt your information. Although some sites require you to supply your social security number (e.g., sites associated with financial transactions such as loans or credit cards), be especially wary of providing this information online.
  • Limit cookies – If an attacker can access your computer, he or she may be able to find personal data stored in cookies. You may not realize the extent of the information stored on your computer until it is too late.
  • Browse safely – Be careful which websites you visit; if it seems suspicious, leave the site. Also make sure to take precautions by increasing your security, keeping your virus definitions up to date, and scanning your computer for spyware.
Image source : RHIC News

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