With hacks, scams, cybercriminals, malware and more, the internet can feel like a dangerous place these days. And, the recent proliferation of devices, from smartphones and tablets to internet-connected appliances, has opened us up to even greater risks.
But the good news is that by taking just a small handful of security measures we can greatly reduce our exposure to all these threats.
Here are 10 internet safety tips to help you get started:
Create Complex Passwords
We know you’ve heard it before, but creating strong, unique passwords for all your critical accounts really is the best way to keep your personal and financial information safe. This is especially true in the era of widespread corporate hacks, where one data breach can reveal tens of thousands of user passwords. If you reuse your passwords, a hacker can take the leaked data from one attack and use it to log in to your other accounts. Our best advice: use a password manager to help you store and create strong passwords for all of your accounts.
Then, check to see if your online accounts offer multi-factor authentication. This is when multiple pieces of information are required to verify your identity. So, to log into an account you may need to enter a code that is sent to your cell phone, as well as your password or passphrase.
Boost Your Network Security
Now that your logins are safer, make sure that your connections are secure. When at home or work, you probably use a password-protected router that encrypts your data. But, when you’re on the road, you might be tempted to use free, public Wi-Fi. The problem with public Wi-Fi is that it is often unsecured. This means it’s relatively easy for a hacker to access your device or information. That’s why you should consider investing in a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN is a piece of software that creates a secure connection over the internet, so you can safely connect from anywhere.
Use a Firewall
Even if your network is secure, you should still use a firewall. This an electronic barrier that blocks unauthorized access to your computers and devices and is often included with comprehensive security software. Using a firewall ensures that all of the devices connected to your network are secured, including Internet of Things (IoT) devices like smart thermostats and webcams. This is important since many IoT devices aren’t equipped with security measures, giving hackers a vulnerable point of entry to your entire network.
Now that you’ve put smart tech measures into place, make sure that you don’t invite danger with careless clicking. Many of today’s online threats are based on phishing or social engineering. This is when you are tricked into revealing personal or sensitive information for fraudulent purposes. Spam emails, phony “free” offers, click bait, online quizzes and more all use these tactics to entice you to click on dangerous links or give up your personal information. Always be wary of offers that sound too good to be true or ask for too much information. Never give away your Social Security number!
Be a Selective Sharer
These days, there are a lot of opportunities to share our personal information online and on social media. Just be cautious about what you share, particularly when it comes to your identity information. This can potentially be used to impersonate you or guess your passwords, security questions, and logins.
Protect Your Mobile Life
Our mobile devices can be just as vulnerable to online threats as our laptops. In fact, tablets and cell phones face new risks, such as dangerous apps and links sent by text message. Be careful where you click, don’t respond to messages from strangers, and only download apps from official app stores after reading other users’ reviews first. Make sure that your security software is enabled on your all your devices.
Practice Safe Surfing & Shopping
When shopping online, inputting your credit card or financial information, or visiting websites for online banking or other sensitive transactions, check the site’s address. The address should always start with “https,” instead of just “http,” and have a padlock icon in the URL field. This indicates that the website is secure and uses encryption to scramble your data so it can’t be intercepted by an identity thief. Also, be on the lookout for websites that have misspellings or bad grammar in their addresses. They could be copycats of legitimate websites. Use a safe search tool such as McAfee WebAdvisor to steer clear of risky sites.
Keep Up to Date
Keep all of your software updated so you have the latest security patches. Turn on automatic updates on your computer, tablet, and cell phone so you don’t have to think about it, and make sure that your security software is set to run regular scans.
Look Out for the Latest Scams
Online threats are evolving all the time, so make sure you know what to look out for. Currently, “ransomware” is on the rise. This is when a hacker threatens to lock you out of all of your files unless you agree to pay a ransom. Stay on top of this and other threats by staying informed.
Keep Your Guard Up
Always be cautious about your online activity, which sites you visit, and what you share on social networking websites. Use comprehensive security software, and make sure to back up your data on a regular basis in case something goes wrong. By taking preventive measures and following just a few basic internet safety rules, you can protect yourself from identity theft and malware and keep your personal and financial information secure.
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