Staying Safe Online

What We'll Learn

  1. Learn how to identify and avoid Internet Ads
  2. Understand how to use a Site Rating Service
  3. Gain confidence in exploring the Internet

Two Rules for Safe Surfing

There a two simple practices that you can use to significantly increase your safety while exploring the Internet. Here they are:
  1. Learn to identify and avoid advertising
  2. Use a Site Rating Service to help you avoid dangerous websites

Internet Advertising

Much of the Internet is free to use. Like television, this free content is paid for by advertisers who are trying to get your attention, and ultimately your money. In addition to legitimate vendors, there are also many non-ethical advertisers that try to lure you to their page, or in some cases infect your computer.

You've learned to recognize and ignore ads on your TV, it's time to learn the same skill for the Internet.. It can get pretty tricky!. 

Some ads are very obvious, But they can also be camouflaged to look like the rest of a webpage, making it very difficult to distinguish regular content from advertisement.

Here are some examples:

Here are a couple of clues to identify ads on a webpage:
  • Ads are generally placed at the top or right hand side of the page, see highlighted examples above.
  • Look for text that says "Ads", "Advertising", "Google Ads", "Sponsored" or "Sponsored Links".
  • Be wary of large, attention grabbing text or pictures.

  • Click on the image above to go to the actual webpage and see the ads clearly in context.
  • Try to identify the advertisements on the page below by clicking on the image to go to the page. Can you identify which download button is the correct one to use?;1

Train yourself to identify and ignore ads as if they were not on the page you are viewing.

Using an Internet Tour Guide

There are millions of websites on the Internet. Some have information that comes from trusted sources with highly professional content. Other sites have speculative or incomplete information. Always use common sense and critical thinking when researching information on the Internet. If you suspect some content, check it with other sources that you trust. 

A very useful tool to help you in judging websites is a Site Rating Service.  It's a program that acts as a Internet Tour Guide, giving you advice as you surf the Web. 

Many anti-virus programs include some sort of Site Rating capability.  If your anti-virus does not already include this service, you can download a free one from a variety of vendors.  

How can you tell if you have a Site Rating Service?  Basically, it should show up in two places:
  1. When viewing a web page, you should see some indication in the toolbar area of whether the page is considered "safe".
  2. When performing a web search, you should see site rating indicators next to the search results.
For our class we'll use Web of Trust, a popular free Site Rating Service. Is also tends to be a little more discerning then the traditional antivirus Site Rating Services.

Exercise - Setup and Use WOT

If you don't already have Web of Trust installed, visit their webpage:
  • Click to go to the webpage.
  • Click the Download button and follow the prompts.

Once you have installed it, try these exercises to see it in action:

  1. Do a Google Search for "Speed up my computer". Note the orange, red and green circles posted beside each website reference.
  2. Click on one of the red marked websites. Note what happens.
  3. Go back and click on one of the green marked websites. Look at the indicator at the top of the site.