Improve Your Internet Safety: Ten Ways to Stay Safe Online
The Internet is so familiar to most people that sometimes we forget about Internet safety. From the dark web to identity theft, there are dangers online; while we don’t need to remain fearful, we do need to understand how to stay safe online. Follow these ten Internet safety tips to improve online safety and protect your information.
Use strong, secure passwords
Strong passwords boost your online security and help protect your online accounts. Passwords are the first defense against online threats; whether it be your accounts, your apps, or your actual device, make sure you protect yourself with strong passwords. You can also enable two-factor authentication on accounts where it’s available, which adds an additional layer of protection to passwords.
Strong passwords should be at least 12-14 characters long with a mix of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. If you have trouble creating passwords on your own, use the password generator tool. When your accounts are secure, it makes you safer online.
Never open emails from unknown sources
Many people open suspicious emails without thinking twice. When they do this, they often accidentally open phishing emails, targeted messages that lure victims into giving up their personal information, like their Social Security number or phone number. The messages appear legitimate, like from a friend or familiar company, but hackers or cybercriminals actually send them.
One of the best ways to stay safe online is to use caution when you receive strange messages such as these. Though they may seem harmless, they aren’t; phishing emails could compromise your personal information.
Watch out for catfishing
Meeting people online is a benefit of the Internet, but it can also be a risk. When you meet people in chat rooms or servers, make sure you know how to spot a catfish to keep yourself safe. Catfishers pose as someone else to try and get money or personal information from their victims. They seem convincing, but they are after something through illegal means.
Be wary of online friends that never show their face, ask for money, or refuse to video-call or meet in person. These are indicators of a catfish and threaten your Internet safety. Additionally, if a friend you met online sends you inappropriate content or makes you feel uncomfortable with their online activity, end the relationship immediately.
Log out of accounts after using them
Many people stay logged into their email or online shopping accounts after using them. While this does make it easier to return to the accounts later, it also makes you vulnerable to others who could access your device. Additionally, try to avoid saving your usernames and passwords into the Google password manager, as Google already knows so much about you. Try an alternative like RoboForm if you need a password manager to keep track of your logins.
Make your social media accounts private
Social media is a great way to connect with others, but it also shows others a lot of personal information. Sharing too much through your social media accounts compromises your Internet safety. Even if you don’t share a lot of pictures or posts, making your accounts private is a worthwhile security measure as it protects your social media privacy.
With a private account, you can control who follows you and, subsequently, who has access to your content. It doesn’t ensure that you’ll never be hacked or have your account leaked, but it does help improve your online safety.
Don't share personal information on the Internet
Whether you’re a child, a teenager, or an adult, sharing personal information online is never a good idea. Some information, like your name, isn’t a big deal, but sharing your location, home address, or even your birthday can be unsafe. Because you don’t have control over your information once it’s publicly put online, the less information you share, the better.
Additionally, when you enter a credit card or other sensitive information into a website, make sure it’s a legitimate site. Check for HTTPS in the address bar; this encryption protocol secures connections for a safer Internet experience.
Use an antivirus software program
Even when you’re vigilant, malware can infiltrate your computer or phone and cause serious problems. Trojan horses and spyware are covert; users may not even realize they have this malicious software on their devices. To protect yourself against online threats, use a strong antivirus program and update it as needed. Programs like Norton 360 proactively scan and eliminate malware, viruses, computer worms, and other threats to your device and your safety.
Don't connect bank card information to accounts
Many online sellers, like Amazon, give users the option to add a card to their account for ease of access in the future. This is undoubtedly convenient, as users who shop there often won’t need to enter their card information each time. However, it poses an Internet safety risk if your account should ever be hacked.
The hacker would have access to your card and could make purchases without having to go through the trouble of trying to hack your bank accounts. Try to use one-time payment options or select “Don’t save my card information” when you enter your credit card for a purchase. If you don’t have either of those options, we recommend manually deleting your card from the account after you make a purchase.
Use a virtual private network (VPN)
Using a virtual private network (VPN) encrypts your online traffic through a secure server. VPNs are one of the best ways to stay safe online, as they offer a degree of anonymity and protect your identity as you browse. Others won’t be able to see your activity or your IP address, which makes it hard to track you.
Make sure you use a high-quality VPN, as free VPNs are not as secure and don’t properly encrypt your connections.
Avoid public or free WiFi networks
Public WiFi networks are one of the biggest dangers to online safety and security. Because they aren’t secured, you don’t know who else is on the network with you or what they’re capable of doing. On a free WiFi network, it’s possible for a hacker to access your mobile device, see your activity, and steal your information. Therefore, to stay safe online, avoid public Internet connections when possible.
A note on Internet safety
Though protecting yourself online may seem intimidating, it’s easier than it seems. Be smart about where you’re browsing and how you’re using your private information; you’ll likely be able to avoid many of the safety threats that exist online. Follow these ten online safety tips to bolster your protection, and you’ll be able to browse the web securely and without worry.