How to Stay Safe Online
Internet security is one of the most important topics today. In a world turning tech, keeping your information safe online is crucial. Want to know how? Continue reading below!
1. Use Secure Passwords
This should go without saying, but it’s surprising how many people today still use their pets names or their children’s birthdays as a password. The reason passwords are used, to begin with, is to keep your accounts and information safe, so why make it easier for hackers by choosing easily guessable passwords? The ideal password should be between 12 – 15 characters long, include both uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as at least one number and one symbol. We’re all sick of hearing it, but that guideline exists for a reason. Stay secure.
2. Keep Personal Information Private
Personal information such as date of birth, bank details, and your home address should never be posted online. Simply ask yourself before every post: Would I give this information to a stranger on the street? If your answer is no, or if you even hesitate just a little bit, then don’t post it. All social media sites should have privacy settings enabled to make sure that only your friends can see personal photos of you. Some social media platforms sell your data to advertising companies, however, so stay cautious even with high privacy settings.
3. Use Anti-Virus Software
This will save you a lot of time, effort, and pain in the long run. Purchasing or downloading anti-virus software is an absolute must when going online. Not only will it prevent you from going onto harmful websites, but it will also scan any file that you download to make sure that’s safe too. Kaspersky, Bitdefender, and Malwarebytes are some of the more popular options. Do your research to find out what software works best for you, and be sure to try their free trials before committing to anything.
4. Perform Regular Updates
This is both for your computer as well as your anti-virus software. When your PC or laptop is out of date, it’s defences are down. The reason software companies release updates is in order to strengthen their system against possible attacks. Likewise, anti-virus companies update their product every time a new virus gets released. This means that you should always keep your computer and it’s software fully updated, or you’re opening yourself up to a cyber attack.
5. Don’t Click On Every Email
We’ve all lost an important email or two to the infamous ‘Spam’ folder in our inbox, but it’s there for a reason. Many email providers automatically mark any suspicious mail as spam and leaves them in a separate inbox for your final judgement. Clicking on these emails could release harmful viruses onto your computer, even if you don’t visit any of the provided links. If you’re unsure whether an email is dangerous or not, look at the sender’s email address. If there’s a string of numbers in it or if it’s from an email provider that you’ve never heard of before, delete it immediately. By not responding, the spammer will eventually stop contacting you.
6. Only Use Secure Sites
At the start of every URL, there is what is known as a ‘HyperText Transfer Protocol’, or ‘http’ as we’re more used to seeing. ‘http’ is a generic protocol that can’t always be trusted. To ensure that it’s a safe website that you’re visiting, check for ‘https’ instead. This is a secure extension of the protocol and was specifically invented for safe and confidential use. If you’re unsure whether a link has ‘http’ or ‘https’, simply hover over it with your mouse, without clicking. The URL will shortly appear, and from this, you can see if the website is worth visiting.
7. Know How To Report
If you see any suspicious email, photo, post, or website, then know how to the report it as potentially dangerous. For spam mail, there is usually a button clearly visible for you to click on, but for social media sites, this option varies. Most sites include a small diagram of a flag for you to click on and is followed by a quick survey where you can give your reasons why you believe the post to be dangerous. For more serious matters such as online fraud or identity theft, be sure to contact your local police station or government website for advice.
8. Use Safe Payment Methods
Shop online safely by only purchasing from trusted websites. Research the site before you give them any credit card information, and if you are even the slightest bit unsure, don’t risk it. Never give out full details about your bank, credit card, or debit card to anyone. For added security, pay online through a payment service such as PayPal. These sites have built-in programs to protect you and your bank account and usually offer a ‘money-back’ option if it turns out the online store was fraudulent.
9. Never Access Insecure WiFi
As tempting as it may be to click on that password-free internet account, don’t do it. Public WiFi is rarely secure and often has hackers lurking about just waiting for you to enter valuable information. If you absolutely have to connect to insecure WiFi, then don’t log into any account that may cause you harm if hacked. Don’t send any confidential email or message, and definitely don’t enter your bank details. Always assume that someone’s watching, so restrict your usage accordingly.
10. Always Back-Up Your Data
If the absolute worst happens and your social media account or email gets broken into, then at least you won’t lose everything when you have a back-up. Regularly backing up your photos, posts, and details will save you a major headache in the long run. Not only is it a good security measure in general, but by saving your information twice, you’ll never have to start from scratch again. So save your files to an external USB stick or hard drive to keep your details safe.