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Tips to create a safer online experience

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Tips to create a safer online experience." My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


Tips to create a safer online experience

These days, surfing the Web can oftentimes be a worrisome experience. Between reports of phishing for data, advertiser tracking and hacking, what’s an Internet traveler to do — short of disconnecting altogether?

Well, never fear, there are an assortment of free browser add-ons and Web surfing alternatives available that will make your online travels a more secure and pleasurable experience. With these tools, many of which are browser extensions, you will enjoy your online experience and will worry less about advertisers and others gaining access to your user data and other private information.

First, consider switching to DuckDuckGo as your Web search engine of choice. Unlike Google and other search engines, DuckDuckGo does not track and save your searches and instead provides you with private, anonymous search capabilities. So if you’re concerned about the massive amounts of data that Google has collected about you between your search habits and other information provided to other Google services, you may very well want to ditch Google and switch to DuckDuckGo.

Another way to secure your online travels is install an extension that warns you when you attempt to visit websites that have been reported as unsafe. Browser add-ons of this type will warn you, based on user feedback and other sources, if there have been reports of malware or other technical threats about a particular website. If so, the add-on will give you the option to not continue on to the website. Popular examples include Web of Trust  (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera) and Webutation (Chrome, online).

Next, avoid online advertising by installing the AdblockPlus browser extension (Chrome, Firefox). AdBlockPlus automatically blocks ads from appearing on every website that you visit. This is one of my must-have online tools. Trust me, browsing the Internet free of ads is a whole new world. Once you experience ad-free Web travels, you will wonder why you ever put up with ads in the first place.

If you are a frequent traveler or use free public Wi-Fi, then HotspotShield is for you. It is a multi-platform app that secures your online travels from prying eyes. It does this by encrypting your Web connection, so that whenever you use public hotspots, your Web travels will remain private.

Another useful browser add-on is Disconnect (Chrome, Safari), which prevents third parties and search engines from tracking your Web travels and searches.  It also includes a useful security feature that offers Wi-Fi security by preventing session hijacking (attacks that can occur if you visit a website that uses an insecure connection when linking to outside Web services).

Finally, consider using a password manager app such as LastPass or 1Password. These multi-platform browser add-ons store your passwords via encrypted files, and automatically populate sites with the correct passwords when you visit them. They also pre-populate Web forms for you and generate and store secure passwords for you. Some versions of these password managers are free and others are not.

So what are you waiting for? Start using these tools and see what it’s like to experience worry-free Web travels!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at