Staying Safe Online – Part 2

It’s one thing to know that you live in a dangerous neighborhood, right? But what good is it (on its own) if you don’t know how to stay out of that danger?

In the previous article, we defined online safety, discussed its importance and the dangers associated with our online activity. Now that we understand that, how do we stay safe? To answer that, here are some guidelines to follow to ensure a level of safety on the streets of the internet:

Tips on how to stay safe online

  • Use strong passwords

For anything that needs a password, be sure to choose a strong password (following password guidelines). Also, avoid a one size fits all approach of using the same or variations of the same password for everything.

  • Keep your internet connection safe

Cybercriminals can hack home routers and gain access to various internet-connected devices, like home security systems and smart doorbells, in your home. It is your responsibility to create a hard-to-crack password. Also, a VPN is one of the best ways to ensure your internet connection is secure.

  • Install a cybersecurity program and keep it up to date

To protect you and your family, or employees (in the case of a business) from visiting wrong sites, install an internet safety software that provides protection for all your family/staff members’ devices. Remember, your mobile devices need as much protection as do your computer and laptops.

  • Shop only form secure sites

Online shopping is one of the greatest conveniences of using the internet and in excitement for a new item it is easy for us to miss indicators of fraud. It is also easy to buy on sites that do not protect our information.

One of the best indicators that a website is secure is it running on HTTPS, which means it has a security certificate that safeguards visitors’ personal information by encrypting their data. This you can verify by checking the beginning of a URL in the address bar, and confirming if there’s a padlock next to it. If neither are there, hold it right there and do not go through with that purchase.

  • Use a password management system

If you are likely to forget your passwords, especially if you have a lot of accounts, my advice is: get a password management system that will manage and remember all your passwords. You will only have to remember one password, that of your password management system password.

  • Keep your privacy settings on

Social media channels, browsers, and your device operating systems all have settings designed to protect your privacy (to a certain extent). However, these settings, in most cases are not set to protect your privacy by default, you have to do it yourself. Play it safe and keep privacy settings on. It is also advisable for parents to ensure this for their young children with devices.

  • Understand privacy policies

In the point above we speak about switching and keeping privacy settings on. However, it is important to know that although those privacy settings exist the privacy policies may not be private. We so often accept these policies without reading them. So even if your settings are set to private, bear in mind that nothing is really private.

Many websites and applications collect information and use it for advertising and marketing purposes. They disclose in their privacy policies that they collect and share their users’ information for this purpose. Moreover, law enforcement, website/application administrators, as well as hackers could have access to your so-called private information.

  • Watch what you post

Given that nothing is really private, it is important for us as internet users to know how much is too much information. We must always be cautious, no matter the mood we’re in, to not post personal information and photos that can attract online predators, or even affect future educational or employment opportunities.

  • Back up data regularly

A type of malware, ransomware can be used by cybercriminals to lock your device so you cannot access valuable files on it. To combat this threat, you are advised to back-up your data regularly. Do that for your children as well, and teach your teenagers how to do it for themselves.

  • Watch what you download

There are billions of websites out there, amongst which some of them are malicious sites that attempt to install malware on your device. Sometimes these sites will try to install software on your device without asking for your permission but in most cases, they require some action from you, such as a button click to download something. This implies, that most of the time a virus will not just land on your device.

  • Go private on public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi spots are easy to access points for hackers and cybercriminals to get hold of your data. For this reason, always use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) when connecting to public Wi-Fi or simply wait until you get home.

  • Close unused accounts

Unused accounts can be a rich source of personal information for cybercriminals. Hence, if you won’t be revisiting the site, it’s best to close the account.

  • Parents: monitor your children’s online activity

Though it may cause friction between you and your children, it is necessary for everyone’s safety to monitor their online activity. From your cybersecurity software, with parental controls, you can control features on games, track their location, back-up their data, and manage how long they can be on the phone or computer.