Living without the Internet can look like an impossible utopia nowadays when everyone and everything is connected to the World Wide Web. It is undeniable that it brought people together and made things much easier and faster, but this openness comes with risks too. These online safety tips might help you protect yourself.
Online safety tips: keep protected while surfing the web
The following online safety tips are intended for the regular user. You don’t need to understand much about the new technologies or to be an expert in spotting hackers or cybercriminals.
Nevertheless, just the fact that you are aware of them can also serve you to keep your data and privacy protected.
There are occasions in which you have to introduce your personal data online. Shopping is a good example because you are required to give your address, your credit card details, your full name and your contact details.
To reduce the chances of having your data stolen, make sure you only introduce sensitive information in websites whose addresses in the URL field start with “https” (not “http”) and has a padlock next to it. This means the website uses encryption to make it harder for your data to be intercepted by others.
Likewise, always keep and eye on the addresses of the websites you visit. Copycats are common and their goal is to make their website look so similar to the original that you won’t question it. However, since they can’t copy the address of the original, theirs is usually very similar but with a misspelling or broken grammar.
Avoid using your real name
Using your real name can make it easier to track your digital footprint and gather data and information about you that you didn’t want or intended to share.
Consider using it only for official matters, as dealing with the bank, professional social platforms, shopping online, etc.
You can use an alias, a nickname or your dream name for all the other instances.
Separate your emails
Think about having two different email accounts for your social media and newsletters and another for personal and professional use. The latter you only give to people or entities you know and trust, so it’s harder for spam to make through.
The other one you can use to sign up on websites, for newsletters, for social media, apps, and other non-important things.
Most email apps let you check more than one email address at once, so it won’t be inconvenient for you to have two and you will be able to see the difference in spam emails.
Be aware of click-bait
Cybercriminals try to lure people into clicking and enter their pages so they can steal their data or make them download malware inadvertently. As a bait, they tend to use sensationalist titles or claims, appeal to your curiosity or gory side with dramatic stories or with adds advertising unrealistic prices or promises.
It can be hard to resist the urge to click on these stories and adds, but an adblocker can help sift through the real website and the click-bait ones.
Be aware of websites that look suspicious or that keep opening pop-ups everytime you click on something.
Be sensible when giving your data
If a website asks you for your data, take a moment to think why they would need it for. The same applies to mobile apps and their requirements.
For instance, unless you have something billed to you, why would an online calendar require your address? Or your credit card details?
Just because you are asked to provide the data, it doesn’t mean you have to. And if you can’t proceed without relaying it, you can always look for a more reliable website. Whenever you’re filling any form online, just try to fill in as little fields as possible.
Be suspicious of your emails
Emails are still one of the most lucrative methods cybercriminals use to spread malware. They send out phishing emails where the subjects either resemble those of a trustworthy institution such as a bank or the government, or they promise attractive discounts to motivate you to click and open the emails.
In these emails, you will be asked to click on a link that will download and install malware on your computer or phone.
Always be extra careful with these emails. If you don’t know the sender, check their email address to see if it’s an automatically generated email or if the address looks reliable. When asked to click on something, always confirm the file extensions and the URLs the link is sending you too.
Be especially aware if the sender of the email asks you for money. Even if it comes from a friend, give him a call to confirm what is going on, as email accounts can be hacked to send emails such as this.
Keep your firewall and antivirus updated
If you’re a Windows user, you know it can be annoying installing the latest security updates – or any updates for what it matters. But it will pay to wait in the long run.
As far as online safety tips go, your antivirus and firewall might not keep you 100% safe, but you will at least be less vulnerable.
Don’t let your emotion speak louder
You are likely to meet scammers in any online community, but dating platforms are the most worrisome. These scammers tend to initiate a conversation, they show interest in you and might even talk about feelings to lure you into trusting them.
Then they will tell you a heartbreaking story and tell you they are desperate for money. Having a stranger asking you for money is a major red flag. If you believe they might be telling the truth, try to schedule a meeting in a public place and tell your friends about your intent.
Online safety tips for teens
Teens are the age group that needs online safety tips the most. On one side, they grew up with the Internet, so they are aware of its pitfalls and they can detect click-bait websites or emails in a snap.
Their problem lies in social media, oversharing and overtrusting. Sounds familiar? That’s because most adults also struggle with these.
Check out the video below to know other online safety tips intended for teens, but that, in reality, apply to every age sector.