In just 25 years, the Internet has completely revolutionized our daily lives.
We watch TV shows, stream music, pay bills, and read news from our laptops and phones. We stay in touch with friends and family in real-time. And we communicate with people on the other side of the world.
What used to be found only in encyclopedias and libraries, is now at our fingertips 24/7.
But with every big innovation comes new risk.
Threats to our privacy and safety lurk everywhere. Hackers are constantly devising sophisticated new ways to steal our personal information. Criminals take advantage of the Web’s anonymity to lure victims. And anonymous trolls spread hate in comments sections everywhere.
Since our world is becoming more dependent on computers each day, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself (and your business) from these threats.
Here are 10 easy ways you can surf the web more safely:
1. Secure your devices.
Strong security controls are your first line of defense against online threats. Make sure all of your Web-enabled devices are equipped with antivirus software. Free, highly-rated antivirus software can be downloaded at www.avg.com and www.pandasecurity.com.
2. Keep your antivirus software up-to-date.
Hackers are constantly finding new ways to defeat security controls, and software vendors are constantly releasing updates and patches in turn. Enable automatic updates, if possible, and open your software regularly to ensure it’s up-to-date.
3. Never give out personal info to people/organizations you don’t know.
This includes your passwords, address, birthdate, social security number, and bank account numbers.
4. Use strong, unique passwords for each online account.
It’s easy to use the same easy password for all of your accounts. But it’s much safer to use a strong, unique password for each. A strong password includes uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. To avoid writing down and possibly losing your passwords, try using a password manager that will store them for you.
5. Don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails.
As a rule of thumb, delete emails from people or organizations you don’t recognize without reading them. Even if you know the sender, be wary of links or attachments that look suspicious. These could cause a lot of harm to your computer and your privacy.
6. Do your online shopping on secure sites.
Before entering your credit card number, check the URL at the top of your browser window. If it starts with “https” or “shttp,” you can be reasonably confident the site is secure. If not, don’t go through with the purchase.
7. Enable two-factor authentication whenever possible.
Two-factor authentication combines two methods of proving your identity, such as something you know (a password) and something you are (a fingerprint). This makes it harder for someone else to hack into your account. And the harder it is for a hacker, the more likely he or she is to give up and go looking for easier targets.
8. Use privacy controls wisely.
Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter offer several privacy options to let you control who can find you and who can see what you post. Set these carefully and review them periodically. These controls are far from perfect (if someone really wants to see your profile, they can find a way). But as with all security threats, it’s best to mitigate the risk as best as we can.
9. Be careful what you post.
The anonymity of the Internet leads some people to say things in a tweet, blog post, or status update that they would never say in-person. But anything you post can resurface at any time and could be used against you. Bottom line: if you wouldn’t say it in-person, or if you don’t want the whole world seeing it until the end of time, don’t post it.
10. Google yourself.
Try searching your name in quotes and your city or town. You may be surprised what comes up, and you may want to clean up your online presence accordingly. This is especially important when you’re on the job hunt.
Staying safe online is not a one-time deal. But taking these initial steps could save you a lot of headaches down the road.