The internet is a wonderful tool, full of possibility. It is a constant source of information, entertainment, and connection, as well as business and commerce. But every wonderful tool can be abused and become harmful if it isn’t handled correctly. With the ever increasing risks posed by cyber hackers and online scams, it is sensible to equip yourself with the “know how” of keeping yourself safe online.
Use SSL Secured Sites and be Wary of Free WiFi Hotspots
It’s ok to get connected to a free WiFi hotspot in order to check Facebook, Whatsapp, or even your emails, but avoid conducting any business, especially if you are giving out financial information, over a free WiFi connection.
As far as the actual sites go, it is a good practice to mostly visit SSL secured sites. You can tell that a site is SSL secured because it will contain an https designation before the URL (sometimes displayed in green) and will also include a green padlock to the left of the URL in the browser bar. If you do not see this designation, think twice before trusting the site.
Keep Finances Secure
It is better, whenever possible, to avoid actually giving out your financial information. Using e-wallets and prepaid payment options, like Paysafecard for instance, are a good way to avoid theft of your personal financial information. If the site you’re purchasing from offers one of these options, perfect, but if the site requires credit card information, then ensure that it has the following badges in place.
Friendly Sharing Only
Be very careful with the file sharing sites that you use. Ultimately, if you are sharing files through Dropbox or other collaborative cloud services, make sure that it is only with people that you know and trust. The same can be said for your privacy settings on social media accounts and other online profiles. It can be crucial in order to avoid identity theft that your privacy settings are set to share information with known friends only.
Use Anti-Virus Software and Firewalls
We all know to avoid malicious websites and unsolicited emails; however, the only way to truly protect your PC from harm is to implement anti-virus software and a good firewall and to keep the software up to date.
Because new viruses and malware are developed by hackers at an alarming rate, these security updates should not be neglected. If your protective software and tools are out of date, then they can’t protect you against any new threats.
Choose Passwords Carefully
This is a pretty simple concept, yet there are many people who don’t follow it. A carefully chosen password should be relatively impossible to guess. It should contain no personal information and should contain letters, characters, numbers, and be case-sensitive.
Of course, passwords should also never be shared or re-used, and you should have a different username and password combination for every account that you use online. It is also good practice to change your passwords regularly, which can be quite taxing if done manually, but thankfully you can also implement a password manager to do it automatically.
Keep Yourself Informed
Last but not least, it’s important to routinely keep yourself informed of the latest hacking schemes and scamming threats that are out there. Forewarned is forearmed after all. When you know what to look for, you won’t be taken by surprise, and you will be more aware of the possible harm that certain online activities pose. There are many sites out there, like this one, for example, that keep the public updated on the most recent scams and explain how to avoid them. Registering to the mailing list of some of these sites will keep you well informed without having to go searching for the information.
For more tips for staying safe online, check out this tutorial from Google.