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Your Guide to Staying Safe Online

The accessibility to the internet grows, and so does the number of its users.

Some people believe that living in the technology age provides nothing but advantages. We have access to ever-expanding life improvements thanks to all those great minds working behind the scenes to help humanity.

It is no secret that the internet plays a major role in our lives. The World Wide Web went live on 6 August 1991, and it is one of the greatest achievements that we, as a species, have managed to accomplish.

According to Statista and other sources, roughly 4.6 billion people were active on the internet in 2020. And the demographics vary from children to adults. 

The accessibility to the internet grows, and so does the number of its users. As more and more people join, fraudsters and hackers start rubbing their hands together because inexperienced internet users are a market base for these conmen. 

There are multiple vulnerability points when surfing the net. It is necessary to know about potential threats and how to avoid them so you can protect yourself from identity theft, ensure safe online shopping, and socialize with others on the internet.

Having reliable antivirus software is one of the best ways to stay safe online. However, it is not the be-all and end-all method. You can implement other ideas in your daily life and give yourself some peace of mind.

Idea #1 – Avoid Oversharing Information

It is easy to connect with people from all over the planet. You do not have to socialize with your family and friends from real life. Thanks to social media, forums, and platforms like Discord, you can send messages directly to other people.

Unfortunately, the internet is home to various people. Just like you might meet a malicious person in real life, you could also meet someone like that online. And it is much harder to realize the true colors of others when you cannot meet them in person.

Be smart when you are chatting with strangers around the world. Do not overshare your information. Even a simple piece like your birthday or address could lead to unforeseen problems, such as crime incrimination.

Idea #2 – Keep All of Your Devices Secure

Do not underestimate the importance of staying safe on all your devices. Be it antivirus software, avoiding shady links, setting up the necessary identity verification tools, installing software updates, or using complex passwords – these practices should apply to every device you use.

It is easy to forget that malware and other cybersecurity threats exist on smartphones and tablets as well. The habits you built using a computer should translate to other devices. And if you have friends or family members who may not be aware of that, make sure to let them know.

Also, be sure that the software you use is constantly up to date. Missing the latest security patches puts the device at risk. If you have a habit of forgetting about updates, turn on automatic updates so that your devices upgrade themselves.

Idea #3 – Set up Identity Verification Tools

Identity verification tools have improved a lot. It is no longer just passwords that people use to access their personal accounts. While the complexity of a password you use matters, there are more effective means that prevent fraudsters from reaching your device or accounts.

Face recognition and fingerprints are two examples. Smartphone and tablet owners who are worried about potential threats secure their devices this way.

Two-factor authentication is also worth giving a shout. The option is popular for bank accounts and other important profiles. Only the person who has both codes can log in.

For instance, entering your ID for a bank account activates an app on your smartphone that asks to enter an authentication code. Unless you have all the information, you will not be able to access the contents of the bank account.

Idea #4 – Improve Network Security

When your passwords and identity verification tools are set up, you can look to boost the network’s security. Your internet connection should be good for the most part at work or at home. Hackers are unlikely to target these private networks, particularly of present security protocols and other safety precautions.

It is public networks that lack security, and you do not have direct control over Wi-Fi at libraries, cafes, or hotels. However, if you still need to use the internet there, investing in a virtual private network is a solid solution. 

A VPN reroutes your connection through the virtual private network server rather than directly via a public Wi-Fi network. When a website you connect to receives data, the data comes from the VPN instead of your computer, smartphone, or tablet. You can think of a VPN as a tunnel that helps you avoid hackers who may be waiting for unsuspecting people. 

Besides security, virtual private networks offer anonymity and access to geo-restricted content. The latter is possible because most VPN services provide you with a variety of IP addresses. If you want to access a Chinese website, pick a Chinese IP address, and you should have fewer problems reaching the content you want.

One final thing to note is that you would be better off avoiding free virtual private networks. They are not as secure. After all, reliable VPNs cost a couple of bucks per month, so paying for them should not be a problem. 

Idea #5 – Enable a Firewall

A firewall may seem like an unnecessary step if you are already confident in your networks’ security. Nevertheless, it is better to be safe than sorry. Using a firewall will provide the network with another layer of security. 

This tool blocks unauthorized access to your devices that you have connected to the network, including Internet of Things devices, such as video doorbells, smoke alarms, webcams, or smart thermostats. 

If you have an abundance of connected IoT devices, enabling a firewall should be one of your priorities. Most Internet of Things devices still lack sufficient security measures, making them a vulnerable point for potential attackers who want to enter your network. That is why enabling the firewall is a good piece of advice.

Idea #6 – Practice Safe Shopping

Safe shopping is not necessarily a problem for the most part. Many people stick to stores that they have used in the past or found out from someone they trust, like friends or family.

However, the potential to expose personal information arises when someone is in an almost desperate need to find the best bargain for a product or service they desire. Scrolling through all the results on Google and ending up on the last page may lead you to a questionable online store.

Just because you find your desired item at the best price, it does not guarantee that the website itself is secure. A missing “S” in the “HTTP” part of the URL is one of the giveaways that a website is insecure. Remember that the “S” in “HTTPS” stands for “secure.” 

As a rule of thumb, you should continue shopping in trustworthy shops that will not ask for unnecessary personal information. 

Idea #7 – Keep Yourself Updated

Whether you are an individual trying your best to protect a personal device, or a business owner concerned about their company’s cybersecurity, keeping up with the most recent events and reading cybersecurity news will give you an edge.

Knowing someone who works in the cyber tech or security industry is also an advantage you can take, provided that you have such a luxury. Even if you cannot talk to this person every day, having a conversation now and then is still good enough to be up to date with the latest events regarding cybersecurity.

Idea #8 – Create Data Backups

Data backups are not a direct way to prevent potential problems. No, the goal of backing up one’s data is to take a precaution in the event that something happens and your precious data disappears.

It is not necessarily a cyber attack or a similar type of threat that could lead to data loss. Your device’s hardware may malfunction and wipe the files, leaving you with no options to restore the data.

External hard drives and cloud storage are two solid choices for creating data backups. You get to choose, but the former is a cheaper option since services like Dropbox and iCloud have a monthly fee for those who want to extend the available storage beyond the default plan, which is a couple of gigabytes. 

Idea #9 – Install an Ad Blocker for Your Internet Browser

Besides avoiding shady links while surfing the net, you can fortify your internet browser’s security by installing an ad blocker. Ad blocker extensions come in handy nowadays when pages are promoting an aggressive ad policy.

The problem with internet ads is more than just having a nuisance that slows down the web’s loading speed. You may click on an ad accidentally and end up on a landing page that is crawling with malware. And in some instances, the security of the browser itself and your device’s antivirus software may not be enough to stop potential threats. 

Deal with the issue at its root by adding one or two ad blocker extensions. The extensions are free, and they should be available for most internet browsers.

Conclusion

To sum it all up, the tips in this article illustrate how complicated online safety is and how much it takes to create a solid cybersecurity strategy. Nevertheless, given the variety of potential threats on the internet, taking some time to protect yourself should not be an issue. If anything, this information should urge you to take action and do as much as you can to give yourself protection online.

Justas Markus

Written by Justas Markus

CEO & co-Founder of GetFound XL. Catch up with Justas on Twitter.

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