What Does URL Mean & Other Thoughts On General Safe Internet Browsing Strategies

Privacy is not something that I’m merely entitled to, it’s an absolute prerequisite.
~ Marlon Brando

What does URL mean? That’s an easy one. URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. The URL is actually a part of the URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) or it could be a complete URI, but for most common purposes, the URL is used in place of URI. The URI is made of up the URL and/or the URN (Uniform Resource Name).

Though as explained above, nowadays we most commonly use URL for the whole internet resource. The URL is a string of characters that corresponds to an internet resource.

If you are wondering about the difference between the URL and the URN you might think of the URL as the “address” and the URN as the “person’s name”. So URLs are used for locating and finding resources whereas URNs are used for identification. For a much more detailed explanation you can check out Wikipedia’s articles on URLs here and URNs here.

That’s about as in-depth as I’m gonna go on this subject of URLs. For most practical purposes the URL is the web bar address in your browser. So for example, the URL for this post is: http://oneplateonebowl.com/what-does-url-mean

But I think a much more interesting idea when talking about web addresses, URLs and browsing the Internet is how to protect yourself from privacy concerns.

A good list of privacy tools for your review is offered by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). It would be worth your time to browse those online privacy tools as well as familiarize yourself with the privacy concerns that normal law abiding citizens like us should be concerned about.

Our most obvious concerns will relate to our personal information like our name, birthdays, addresses, financial information and that kind of stuff.

It is best practice not to share that information over the internet as best you can. And if you do choose to do online banking and online shopping, be sure to use the correct web address. Many hackers and spammers are trying to access your information by creating pseudo websites that look like the real ones. So make sure you have typed in your bank’s web address carefully and bookmark it for easy access next time.

Along with this, it is best to use secure passwords whenever you need to access websites that require any of your personal information. Obviously this applies for banks and the like, but also Yahoo mail or any webmail applications you might use.

Any time you share personal information online you should protect that information as much as possible through robust password choices. I use LastPass – it’s FREE – to help me generate and manage secure passwords, and different ones for each of the websites I use.

I recommend passwords that include both upper and lower case letters, at least one number and at least one special character. I also recommend making them at least 12 digits long.

It is also wise to have a throwaway email account that you use for some of those annoying websites that you want to visit but want you to have a username and email address as well. When creating that email account to use just for these sorts of things, choose a pseudonym when you sign up, don’t use your real name.

Another good practice is to always clear your browser’s cache and cookies after you’ve finished surfing. This is doubly important when you are using a public computer.

The above are just some of the tips to get you started. There is much more you can do to protect your online privacy. I also like to use Ghostery – FREE – which is easy to install on your browser and it tracks the trackers that are tracking you as you surf. It also allows you to block them in the first place.

Google has become ubiquitous in our lives and that worries me. They are a big for profit company that is collecting tons of our information. Try and limit your use of their services as best you can. If you sign on to Gmail to check your email, then sign back off when you’re done and clear your browser’s cache and cookies right afterwards too. Remember that any emails you send through services like Gmail are likely trackable and kept for an indefinite period even if you delete them from your Gmail dashboard.

For secure email, check out some of the options from the link above for privacy tools from EPIC.

When you’re at work, please conduct yourself with the understanding that you have NO privacy at all. Seriously, your company may be using key log trackers and other methods to cull information about what you are doing on their computers. Paranoid? Perhaps, but better safe than sorry.

Lastly, at home I use disk encryption to secure some of my most valuable files on my computer in case it ever gets stolen or goes missing. The link from EPIC above has some examples. I like TrueCrypt (despite recent concerns) – also FREE – it works well and has military grade encryption strength. Bitlocker is a great Windows based full disk encryption option and FileVault is the Mac equivalent. Passwords, bank account info etc, should all be under heavy encryption even it you are the only person who uses your computer.

Remember to try and keep current about online privacy issues. Take appropriate methods to protect your privacy as you feel comfortable. It’s not a matter of hiding things because we have something to hide, it’s a matter of not accidentally, or being forced to share things that are private.

Oh, one other thing. Try and use search engines that don’t track your IP address like StartPage or DuckDuckGo.

For more info check out Stay Safe Online and keep yourself edumicated 🙂

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