Internet Service Providers
Your internet connection will almost certainly have changed over the years. Inititally, we all 'dialled up' over our phone line at a speed of up to
56Kbits/second - if we were lucky! That's about 400 times slower than an average 20Mb/second that your connection is likely to be giving you over broadband today, via an Ethernet Cable, or Wi-Fi, though your WiFi connection may not be as fast as you think it is, as it depends on which protocols your hardware supports, how it is set up, how far away your router is and what is between you and it! Speeds much faster than this are certainly not uncommon nowadays, with up to 100Mb/second or more being possible. However, in some country areas, some very unlucky people are still stuck with not-so-good old fashioned dial up!! There are other options though. If you live in an area with good mobile coverage, you can use what's called 'mobile broadband' via a 'dongle' or adapter (usually a USB dongle that has a mobile phone SIM in it), or your mobile phone's data connection to provide an internet connection to you PC/Laptop etc. (how? see here
). Whichever you use - and hopefully it's not still dial up - you will have a Service Provider.
So what or who is a Service Provider? Most people will be well aware of this. Your Servic Provider is the company that you pay to provide the various services to your home, in this case the company that provides your Home Phone connection, Broadband Service, TV service, or Mobile Broadband/Phone/SIM service - or, quite likely, two or more of these. These companies do not just provide the basic service, not any more anyway. More and more they are (or are having to by law) either limiting what you are able to access over the internet, or providing means to choose this for yourself, by means of filters, various pre-set levels and lists. They may also provide anti-virus and other anti-malware protection, or even a safe environment called a 'walled garden' which you are safe in as long as you do not go outside of the 'walls'. So, exactly what security services do these Service Providers provide?:
Parental Controls Back to Top
- Parental Controls. Your Service Provider will have Parental Controls on your account, with pre-set levels of security. Adjust them to suit your family and circumstances.
- Home Security. Your Service Provider may have more general Home Security settings on your account, giving you more control. Set them up to better suit your needs.
- Anti-Virus. You may also have an overall Anti-Virus protection, or a simpler Anti-Virus notification, which pops up on websites that are thought to pose a risk. Make sure you understand what this does and how to use it.
- White and Black Lists. Your Parental Controls or wider Home Security controls will have website White and Black lists. Use these to block or enable access to individual sites.
- Checking Up. Don't take these settings at face value, check to see that they work. That means clearing cache and cookies, so that you're not seeing only what your device has in it's local memory. We show you how..
ALL of these providers will have web sites where you can log in and check your account, your services, bills and other options. Along with these options, there will also be security settings and options. These allow you to set 'parental controls' which limits access to web sites that are deemed to be inappropriate for children, such as sexually orientated, violence and drug related sites. Setting this up means that you will have put in a blanket block on most of these sites. It is not a guarantee that all such sites will be blocked and unavailable, nor even that all sites that you would like to be blocked will be blocked out; it's a pre-set list of sites that your service provider has determined would be inappropriate.
Home Security Back to Top
Another option may find you have is a more general security setting, generally called 'Home Security' or similar. There may well be several pre-set levels to this, similar to, or in addition to the parental controls, but these usually attempt to give you more control over the level of protection you think you need. If you have this option, you will probably want to set it up depending on what sort of family you have and, if you have children, what ages they are. Having said that, if you have any
children under 18, you may well be advised to set it to the highest level, as although very young children are clearly going to be more vulnerable, older children are more likely to push the boundaries and try to access anything that they think they shouldn't!
As these controls can be adjusted whenever and as many times as you like, just try it out according to what you think is appropriate for your family and adjust it as and when you want to. Log in, get accustomed to the interface and give it a try. The worst you can do (as opposed to not having it set at all), is to temporarily block a few web sites that you actually want to have access to. As this is easily reversed, there is no good reason to try it out and see exactly what effect this has on your browsing. If nobody complains that they can't reach a certain site, then you're probably doing fine!
Anti-Virus Back to Top
If your provider provides and Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware or stronger Anti-Malware product or notification service for free, then you will most likely want to take advantage of this. Make sure before you do though, that it really is free and not limited to your first 3, 6 or 12 months. Also check the performance of your devices before and after using this service to make sure that it is not unduly slowing them down, or that it clashes with any anti-malware or firewall software you already have or later install. Check on their website to see if it is either 'on' or 'off', or if there are setting that you can adjust to determine exactly what services and or notifications you might get and if there are any down-sides, like being blocked from any websites that you still want to be able to access.
White and Black Lists Back to Top
Another option you will find is a simple list, or to be accurate, two lists. These will be your 'white' list and your 'black' list. This is not some sort of strange racial preference list, but a list of web sites that you are happy to be allowed to view - your 'white' list - and a list of sites that you have come across, or been told about, that you don't want anyone in your household to be able to view - your 'black' list. These lists can be added to at any time. Likewise, you can also remove sites from either list at any time. Any site added to your black list should be unavailable within a very short time of you adding it to your list, if not immediately. However, sites added to your white list should be re-available quite quickly, but don't count on it, as this may take longer than adding to your black list, as your Service Provider take some time for your online block to be removed.
Checking Up Back to Top
When re-visiting a site to see if it is now available, or blocked, you will need to clear your browser's cache, cookies, offline data and refresh your page to make sure that what you are seeing is the correct up to date response from the site, not what your device has in it's local memory from last time you visited that site. All of these things, including how easy or difficult they are to edit, will depend on the browser that you use and possibly on who your service provider is. If you continue to have problems viewing or blocking a particular site, or several sites, you may need to contact them directly for help.
So, how do you clear these things and how do you refresh your web page? These things are different on each browser, but they are similar, you just need to find them! On Firefox for instance, you need to click/tap on 'History' and 'Clear Recent History', then select exactly what you want to clear and for what period (lat hour/week/month/all). Becareful because once you clear it, it's gone for good, so if you're not sure what you are doing, take care. For instance, make sure you know or have a record somewhere of you login passwords for all sites that you use, as clearing your cache will stop the auto-login option to work.
Good though they are, none of these provider enabled blocks or tools are a replacement for any of the other tools and options that we list on our main page and other pages, especially the big three:
- Being knowledgeable about what you are doing and practicing 'safe web and email use'
- Keeping your Operating System, Software and Internet Security program and virus signatures up to date
- Regularly backing up your data, both locally and to the cloud!
Your supplier will have their own options for security. Log in to your account and find out what they are. If you're not sure how to set them up, contact your supplier and they will help. Alternatively, find their customer forum pages, which are usually full of help. It's not usually worthwhile moving supplier in order to get access to a different provider internet security system, but it might just be something you want to think about and compare before changing supplier next time!