Lets Have “The Talk” About the Internet: 7 Conversation-Starters for Staying Safer Online

By on Feb 06, 2021

It’s Time to Have “The Talk” About the Internet: 7 Conversation-Starters for Staying Much Safer Online

With Safer Internet Day upon us, it’s time to have “The Talk.” The internet talk, that is.

What’s the internet talk? It’s a candid conversation about how safe we’re really being when we go online, as opposed to how safe we think we’re being. Indeed, there can be a sizable gap between the two, and our 2021 Consumer Security Mindset Report shows us just how significant it is:

  • 2 out of 3 people in the U.S. (66%) say they’re concerned about today’s cyber risks—a striking statistic despite nearly 6,500 data breaches and 1.1 billion records exposed just between 2010 and 2019 in the U.S. alone
  • 70% of respondents said they purchased at least one connected device in 2020, while 1 in 3 bought three connected devices. However,
  • Only 50% purchased security software, and 1 in 4 of those who have said that they check to see if their security software is up to date.
  • Over half of U.S. respondents (51%) said that they never considered how much the data they store online is worth. However, nearly 9 in 10 consumers say they would be proactive about protecting that data if it could be traded as a currency, which indeed it is by hackers who sell it on the black market.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 (29%) respondents admitted that they are not confident in their ability to prevent a cyber-attack.

I don’t know about you, but I was struck by the fact that only 50% of people are purchasing security software when they buy a new device. If that’s so, then it’s indeed time for the talk.

Whether we have the talk with our kids, our parents, or even have it with ourselves, this is a chance to make sure we’re protecting the things that matter when we go online—our families, our privacy, our finances, our data, and, of course, our stuff too—like our computers, tablets, smartphones, and other connected things too.

Internet security: What’s there to talk about?

Plenty. However, let’s look at Safer Internet Day as a way to take some important first steps by asking a handful of questions that can lead to a much safer you online.

1) Are you using holistic security solutions?

Given that security software statistic mentioned above, let’s start at square one. Holistic security solutions will provide you with strong antivirus protection and much more on top of that. It can steer you clear of malicious downloads and links, intercept phishing emails before they hit your inbox, and protect your privacy as well—just to name a few. Additionally, it can protect your smartphones and tablets too, whether you have an Android or iOS devices. Don’t forget to cover those things too, as chances are you do about half of your browsing on them.

2) Are your passwords strong and unique?

If you’re using simple passwords or repeating the use of the same password with little or no variation, it’s time to make a change. Strong, unique passwords protect you in this age of data breaches and hacks, where passwords are stolen and then sold on the black market. If creating strong and unique passwords for each of your accounts sounds like a lot of work, consider using a password manager to create and securely store passwords for you.

3) Are you protected by a firewall and a VPN?

A firewall acts as a digital barrier that blocks unauthorized access to your computers and devices, which is a must these days (and has been for some time now). It’s often included with comprehensive security software (one more reason why having comprehensive security software is far superior to having “just” antivirus).

A virtual private network (VPN) is software that creates a secure connection over the internet, so you can safely connect from anywhere. You may want to use it at home when you’re looking for extra protection while banking or handling finances. And you’ll most certainly want to use it when logged into public Wi-Fi at places like airports, hotels, and cafes because so-called “free Wi-Fi” is often unsecured, making it easier for hackers to access your device or the information you’re sending and receiving.

4) Are you oversharing on social media?

It may come as surprising, but hackers can piece together a great deal of information about you from social media and use it as the means for all manner of attacks. That includes identity theft, social engineering attacks where they impersonate you or someone you know, and even password theft. Avoid oversharing on social media by keeping details like addresses, school names, and other personally identifying information to yourself. Also, set you profiles to private so that only friends and family can see them.

5) Can you tell a secure website from one that isn’t?

When you’re shopping, banking, or passing along any sort of sensitive information, make sure the site address starts with “https” instead of “http.” The “s” stands for secure, and many browsers will represent that with a little padlock icon to indicate use of https, which uses encryption to scramble and help secure data from prying eyes.

Another form of protection from malicious sites is McAfee Web Advisor, which can help you steer you clear of adware, spyware, viruses, phishing scams, and sketchy downloads.

6) Are you updating your apps and software?

Updates do more than keep your apps and software current with the latest features, they often include security improvements as well. When and where possible, set your devices and software to update automatically. And when prompted to update, say yes. The few moments you spend here can prevent major headaches down the road should your app or software open an avenue to an attack.

7) When’s the last time you backed up your data?

Now that’s the $50,000 question. And I say that only half-jokingly. Where would you be without your photos, files, tax records, finances, projects, and so on? The answer is probably “a world of hurt.” Losing it could set you back personally and financially. Back up your data. I suggest doing so with a combination of a reputable cloud storage service and a local physical device like an external hard drive that you store in a safe location.

Another option for particularly sensitive data and files is use encrypted storage. For example, our File Lock feature allows you to create password-protected encrypted drives on your PC that only appear when you’ve unlocked them, perfect for storing sensitive files like tax returns and financial documents.

Having “The Talk” is your first step to a much safer life online

Sometimes asking the right question can set things in motion, and I hope that’s what this little talk does by helping you identify and patch up any gaps you find in your security. Go ahead and set aside some time to have “The Talk.” You and anyone you have it with will be safer for it.

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About the Author

Judith Bitterli

Judith Bitterli currently serves as Senior Vice President of Consumer Marketing at McAfee. She is a passionate advocate for online security, family safety, and safeguarding our digital experiences. Judith has been in the security space for eight years and technology for over thirty years. She brings to her work a fundamental belief that online security ...

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