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Web Page Security

Now that your browser and OS are secure, you’re free to run anywhere and do anything, right? Well, not completely. There is another important thing you should watch for when using the Web. Some pages need to use sensitive data; it is that simple. You can’t buy anything online, for example, unless you have a credit card or have exchanged some personal information to get the process started. If you are going to exchange any sensitive information on the Web, make sure you’re doing it on a secured page. How do you know? By looking for the lock in the lower right corner of the status bar at the bottom edge of the browser (for Internet Explorer). If the lock is there and closed, you are on a secured connection. Additionally, if the address is https:// instead of http://, you’re also on a secured channel. The secured channel I am talking about is the Secured Sockets Layer, or SSL. SSL is a method of encrypting the data that travels between your system and the server that needs to store or use that data. I personally will not exchange any personal information across the Web unless it is done on SSL connections. SSL only protects the data in the current session, so if a company uses SSL to gather your data and then leaves it in their database unprotected, that isn’t good. You did all you could, however, and the company is responsible for the data loss—not you as the user.

Other things to watch for while browsing the Web include pages in frames that load from different domains (you can usually tell by watching to see where they load from in the status bar or if they load at significantly different rates), persistent navigation bars that force all other pages to include their navigation, and sites redirected across multiple domains. And watch in the address bar to see if the URL makes some sense. If you are going to Charles Schwab to check your stocks, but the URL says www.haxorjohn.com, don’t trust it. Be sure the address that loads is the correct one. An example of mismatched addresses is shown in Figure 7-2. (Watch the domain name. If it jumps to an unrelated domain, there might be a problem. If a site jumps to a different server on the same domain, it is likely a normal and acceptable action.) Most of all, just use common sense. There are plenty of legitimate and secure sites that will be happy to do business with you. It is far more rare that someone wants to rip you off, but if you find one, you need to be able to identify the scam and avoid it.


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