The Information Riverbed

Let’s be honest: the Internet is the new Wild West. The Information Highway is more of a dried riverbed often leading down blind corners and taking you places you didn’t want to go. And like the Oregon Trail, your caravan is under constant threat of danger, hijack and the dreaded death by dysentery.

Just this week I heard a story of a computer that was ill with a Ransom Virus, refusing the user further access to the internet. The bandit program was saying that the user was being fined by the FBI and needed to go pay a $200 fine if they wanted to continue browsing the web.

What can we do?

The first thing you’re probably thinking is installing a great antivirus program. Yes – that is important! If you are using a PC, be sure to check out Microsoft Security Essentials – a great, FREE, anti-virus system. But, to use our Oregon Trail analogy, this is only as effective as bringing a doctor along to treat the symptoms and pass out antibiotics. What if you had a guide? What if there were someone who could lead you to the Oregon Promised Land without any fear of danger — without having to wonder, “is this website legit? Should I make my camp here?”

Digital Sacagawea

We, like Lewis and Clark, need a guide for our computerized covered wagons. And here’s the good news: there are digital Sacagaweas that can help get us where we want to be while keeping us away from danger. Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s time to filter!

Yes, filtering is good for accountability. Yes, it’s good for keeping your kids safe from pornography and other digital “dysentery”. But it’s also good for keeping you away from suspicious sites, hijacked domains, viruses and even things you never knew were dangerous as you browse the web.

Fortify the Camp

The first step in keeping yourself safe is putting a guard right at the entry/exit point of your cyber-camp. This is DNS filtering. What’s that?? Here’s the simple version: when you use the web, all your traffic goes through DNS servers that tell your computer where stuff is actually located on the web. Using a DNS filtering service like OpenDNS means that if you, innocently or not, tried to go somewhere dangerous, the guard at the gate asks your computer, “Where are you going?” Your computer is an honest little guy and says, “www.dangeroussite.com” . The guard says, “no, you shouldn’t be there,” and blocks the door.

DNS filters are installed on your router – right at the point where the internet comes in and travels out of your home. This means that any device, whether it’s a computer, phone or tablet, when it is connected at your home, is protected. Here is a Set-Up guide where you’ll register for your OpenDNS account.

Covered Wagon Champion

What about when you’re not at home? What about when you’re working at the local cafe, visiting family, or on the go? Well, there’s filtering protection there too- it’s System-Level protection — software that has to be installed on each computer, similar to anti-virus software. My Covered Wagon Champion of choice? K9 Web Protection. It’s available for your Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad and Android device. Install it, set up a master password, and ford that digital river without fear of sinking. Wherever you go, it goes ahead, warning you of scams and trouble.

You’ve made it to Oregon!

Yep. The Net is full of great stuff – there is so much content to lear from and be entertained by. But it can be a dangerous place. Use these tools and follow your System Sacagawea. Don’t die from digital dysentery.