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Whether you are fond of the ocean or your computer, it’s apparent that the term surf has come across your mind at least once.  According to Merriam-Webster, the word surf means, and I quote, “1) The swell of the sea that breaks up on the shore or 2) the foam splash and sound of breaking waves”.  Did you know that the word in the context of surfing the web came from a librarian named Jean Armour?  In 1992 of March with a Master of Library Science published her first article titled “Surfing the Internet” in The University of Minnesota Wilson Library Bulletin. 

Jean said, “I wanted something that expressed the fun I had using the internet, as well as hit on the skill, and yes, endurance necessary to use it well." "I also needed something that would evoke a sense of randomness, chaos, and even danger. I wanted something fishy, net-like, nautical." As she put it, this word, and I quote, “riding waves, “ inspired the iconic term. However, IBM’s marketing department personnel Ron Mion, “the concept was originally published five months before her article.”

Yes, it is believed that the term “surfing the internet” originated from the comic book CerfNET, an emerging ISP (Internet Service Provider) released in 1991.  CERFNet, an emerging (ISP) Internet Service Provider, created a character in a book named Captain Internet, and her sidekick was a fly on a magical surfboard.  This book’s title was “The Adventures of Captain Internet and CERF Boy.

Today we refer to internet search as either browsing or surfing, but what is the difference?  Searching for specific or detailed information is referred to as browsing, and anyone surfing the internet with no goal of finding any particular information is said to be surfing.  Anytime one goes surfing in the ocean, it is paramount to understand and follow the rules to be safe while riding the waves. 

Before you ever get on your surfboard, remember to protect your head from trying to fall below it.  Remember to always hold onto your surfboard no matter what.  When having your surfboard, make sure to keep it on your side.  Learn about rip currents.  Practice surf etiquette and get surf fit.  When you see an obstacle, avoid it.  Plan your exit in and out of the water carefully and ask lifeguards if needed, so you don’t become a statistic.  Surf at your own risk, as trying to show off or be a hero, is a surefire recipe for getting hurt.  Keep a pulse of when you are getting tired, as many injuries happen due to over surfing and exhaustion.  Before you leave home, wear and pack the appropriate gear, so you are prepared.  Some examples include but are not limited to wetsuits thick enough to handle cold water temperatures, earplugs, safety google, etc., as needed.

Similar to how you must follow safety rules while surfing the ocean, to have a great experience, one must also understand and know how to browse and surf the internet safely.  If you don’t practice safe internet browsing and surfing, your personal information may be compromised.  Once information known as PI (Personal Information) or PHI(Personal Health Information) gets compromised, it could be used to steal your identity, affecting your well-being.

There is a misnomer going around that because you are at home or in the office in a safe building, you are also safe online.  The truth is that the faster your internet speed is, the higher your exposure risk of being attacked or having your information compromised online.  Just as you need to protect yourself when surfing, so do you when you surf or browse online.

You should first have antivirus, malware, and ransomware active and passive scanners on your computer, updated regularly.  Active means that the computer constantly monitors things while you do other things.  Passive scanning is when the computer is not paying attention to real-time activities and only takes action after a scheduled or manual scan that was scheduled.  Good security requires both passive and active scanning to mitigate the most threats.  Next, be sure to have all the latest windows updates installed, and any driver updates, as known backdoors could exist that may give bad actors access to your machine and or data.

It is also strongly recommended that you have a router with the firewall or a separate one to secure your WIFI and LAN (Local Area Network).  Ensure that your WIFI uses a complex password and that you don’t share this with your neighbors or strangers. Only enter PHI (Personal Health Information) or PI (Personal Information on secure sites.  PI is any information that may quickly identify you, such as your full name, address, phone number, social security number, bank account number, debit card, credit card, passport, and property deed.  PHI is personal information about your health, such as doctors, medicines, etc.

A secure site encrypts the data entered to prevent a man-in-the-middle attack. When you visit a secure site, it can be easily noticed by looking for a locked lock or solid key at the far left of the URL address bar in the browser window.  Only enter personal information if you see this closed symbol, and if you are unsure it’s locked, click on the respective icon. It will say the connection is secure if a site encrypts the entered data.

Whether you are using google, bing, yahoo, or any other search engine, it is vital that you don’t become click-happy with every link you see.  Did you know that bad actors have been buying traffic to trap you and want to exploit your data?  Thus if you get a pop-up or see an offer for a once-in-a-lifetime thing, it probably will lead you to a bad actors site.

Ensure you have passwords of at least 7-15 characters, one uppercase letter, a symbol, and a number.  Never give your passwords to anyone, or store them on paper under your keyboard.  It is a good idea to write them down and keep them in a book in your safe.  Every password keeper I have researched has a loose link; some even send your password over the internet using plain text that anyone could see.

Don’t save passwords in your browser, as bad actors could exploit them.  Using a VPN is a great way to keep your IP address from being seen by bad actors that could influence you.  A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a tunnel whereby all traffic from where your internet traffic is encrypted before being decrypted and let out to the internet.  If a VPN is free, don’t use it, as it often will not protect fully and may expose you to viruses or harmful malware.  Don’t download haphazardly from free sites unless you know one can be trusted, as they will often have malware in these files.

You wouldn’t hand your credit card number, social security card, passport, or bank account number to a stranger; why are you doing it online? Don’t assume it will always keep you from bad actors just because you are comfortable.  If you are not appropriately protected, it’s not a question of if you will be attacked or hacked but when.

Thus it is vital for a digital world, not just in-person, to follow the “Golden Rule,” which is to treat others how you want to be treated.  Keep communication friendly and respectable regarding online friendships, business transactions, or social media.