When I was younger, I had no fears in the world, and didn’t worry about anything I did on my computer. I surfed the web however and with whatever I wanted, and did not have to worry too much as it was still pretty exclusive. Sure, there were still viruses at that time, but none of them caused the amount of damage that can come today.
Twenty years later now, we have to worry about Ransomware (malware that encrypts/deletes your data and holds you ransom), Trojan’s (malware that takes control of your system and provides remote access/key logging, etc), and other types of viruses.
If viruses weren’t enough, we also have to worry about the bad people behind them; hackers trying to get your personal information and exploit you in different ways. There are many illegal activities going on within the deep and dark web, and then you have to worry about your typically psychopaths, murders, and serial killers. The news and media has been scaring us with horror story’s for decades about what can and does happen.
As if everything I’ve already mentioned wasn’t bad enough, many of us have families that are now also getting online, and some kids are starting as young as six and seven years old. Our families are prey being stalked by predator’s in forums, kids games, teenager online hangouts, social media, and even solicitations.
Due to all of this, I felt it was necessary to go over safety to keep yourself, and your families safe online. I will be discussing how safe the internet is, as well as give you 10 ways to stay safe online.
1. Don’t be click happy
There is nothing worse than going to a website and finding a link that tells you to click here for a virus, and once you realize it, you can’t help but click it. In actuality, this is not how it happens and most of the time you’re completely unaware you were infected by a site or link. You don’t find out until a few hours later, when a pop up prompts you that all of your files are now encrypted and you need to pay 0.05 bitcoins to have your data un-encrypted.
Whatever you do, try not to click links. Unless you definitely know where you are going and have checked on the location you are being sent to yourself. If you hover over a link, for the most part it will tell you where the link is sending you, but there are also ways to get around this, so be careful still. I typically refrain from clicking links, and sometimes will even copy the link’s website and use an online virus scanner on it. Virus Total works great, and allows you to scan a URL.
2. Share only what’s necessary
We’ve all heard of and have been taught not to give out our personal details online. This needs to be ingrained into our children as well, and they need to know not to ever give out their First and Last names, Address, Phone numbers, age or school name or location. No one should give their passwords to anyone, even if the person sounds and seems like an authority figure (police, IRS, etc). I can’t count how many times I have seen someone give their personal information to people they thought were real in an email, or on a chat.
3. Improve your PC and Network Security
There are a ton of easy things you can do to improve the security of your system. One of these items is Antivirus software, which I’ve reviewed quite a few different ones HERE. Secondly, you can get a good VPN service, which provides you with encryption on your data while traversing the internet. You can find my reviews on VPN services HERE. You will also want to get a good firewall to protect you and your families systems.
4. Use Password Best Practices
There are many items for password best practices and the main fundamentals of it are;
- Keep long passwords
- Use multiple character types (Numbers, Capitals, Special Characters)
- Make your passwords unique
- Use password phrases
- Add some randomness
For an in depth article on password management, you can read my article on Password Management and Password Best Practices HERE
This is the simplest, cheapest, and fastest of all the other recommendations, and is the most important item in my list of 10 ways to stay safe online. Installing updates to your software is free, and typically requires downloading the update, and installing. Be sure to install your Microsoft Windows Updates, as well as third party updates like Java, Adobe Acrobat, Firefox, Google Chrome, etc. Installing updates protects you by fixing any known vulnerabilities in the software you use, and helps prevent malicious software from using it.
6. Learn Good Browsing Habits
The most difficult of all, but also very important is watching your browsing habits. Searching for things you shouldn’t be looking for has a higher risk of contracting a virus. Stay away from Illicit websites, Key generator’s, pornography, torrents, and illegal acting websites. You will also want to stay away from get-rich-quick scheme’s, multi-level-marketing scheme’s, and other types of websites similar.
7. Don’t trust anyone
When you receive an email, there is no way to know for sure if it is the person you are talking to, or if someone has taken over their computers/accounts. One way to easily protect yourself is by calling the person when it sounds fishy what they are asking for. If your Uncle Bob is stuck in another country until he gets $600, but you never knew he left town, a lot of times this type of thing is fake.
People can also pretend to be police officers, IRS agents, Foreign authorities, and other positions of authority. It is very difficult to know who is or isn’t someone, but typically if someone tells you they are a police officer and try to threaten you with something, they are not being truthful. There’s no way to prove this and threats typically aren’t something these organizations resort to.
8. Don’t join unsafe WiFi networks
Have you ever logged into your laptop and got a message that there is a WiFi in the area you can join, that isn’t secured? Whatever you do, don’t join them, and especially try to stay off McDonald’s, Starbucks, and other Guest WiFi networks. Typically, companies do not secure these networks as much as they should, if at all, and other times they are a hacker trying to get lucky and steal your information and credentials.
To protect yourself, turn off auto joining of WiFi networks in the area. Try to disable WiFi whenever you are not using it. Only log into WiFi networks with WPA2 or better encryption, and requiring a password you know. Try to have a VPN service that you can use when on WiFi networks for added protection.
9. Email Alertness
Phishing attempts are on the rise again, and probably always will be. Phishing is the number one money maker for the bad guys and allows them to easily pretend to be someone they aren’t. A lot of times they will hide their real email address behind a spoofed address. A lot of times you’ll see that an email came from someone, but when you look at the header information of where the email response goes to, it will be another location that doesn’t typically make sense.
Email in itself is innately insecure and unprotected. Subjects of email cannot be encrypted, and there is no guarantee that the email servers you are sending your email through are encrypted. Email can easily be hijacked, and sometimes you can also make a mistake yourself by typing the email wrong.
DO NOT USE EMAIL FOR SENDING PERSONAL INFORMATION
10. Backup, Backup, Backup
Finally, the final, but not the least important in the slightest, is to use a backup software to back up any important data you may have. Backups are so important, because no matter how safe we think we are, and no matter how much we try to be safe online, there is always a chance where something just happens. Your backup solution can be local to an external drive, or to a cloud backup solution, or even to another family members house encrypted. There are many backup options for you to choose from and provide significant protections. There are a ton of inexpensive cloud backup providers out there to choose from.
I hope you found this post helpful on how Safe is the Internet, and 10 Ways to Stay Safe Online. Online safety is not only important for adults, but it is more important for children because of how many predators there are out there. Keep your children and families safe, and if you have any questions or additional items to add, please comment below.
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