Surfing the web easily takes up about 45% of our everyday lives. We have multiple social media accounts; receive numerous e-mails every day from known and unknown sources; visit several websites on a day-to-day basis to quench our thirst for knowledge and creativity; browse through many goods and services to purchase online; and sometimes even play online games via gaming consoles, PCs, and handheld devices. Our dependence on the internet cannot be exaggerated. Our personal information is constantly collected and stored by various giants so that they can deliver apps, advertisements, and experiences based on our interests. When our information is so vulnerable, how can we take measures on a personal level to safeguard ourselves against digital attacks? Especially when hacking accounts and databases have become the trend in the last few years?
Simple. By being informed and proactive.
Top 10 Tips On How To Stay Secure While Using The Internet
1. Create strong passwords
Yes. The ever so common advice is common for a reason. Creating strong, unique passwords for accounts and devices keeps your personal and financial information safe from hackers who use “guesswork” to hack into accounts. Also, use different passwords on different sites so that a hacker may not be able to get access to all your accounts by guessing the password for only one account. A good way to keep track of all your passwords is by using a password manager. However, this is not 100% safe but is still better than having all your passwords lying around in a notebook somewhere.
2. Connect to a secure network
When connecting to a Wi-Fi system, make sure that the network you are connected to is password protected. Your home or work network probably uses a password protected router but when you are on the road, you might be tempted to use an open or free public Wi-Fi, which isn’t password protected. The problem with using a public network that isn’t secured is that all your information such as passwords, bank details, etc. can easily be accessed by a hacker and used maliciously.
3. Keep your firewall and anti-virus active
Firewall is added security for your network and all your devices. Firewall blocks unauthorized access to your computer and ensures that all your networks are secured. An anti-virus software also ensures to detect (and delete) any viruses that accidentally entered your device, notify you about poor Wi-Fi passwords, block suspicious websites, etc. It’s important to never disable your firewall or anti-virus software.
4. Protect your mobile
More than laptops and computers, mobile phones are the lifelines for most people. Imagine the amount of data and money you will lose if your phone crashes due to a virus! Risky apps, dangerous links sent through text messages, getting added to spam WhatsApp groups, pop-ups with fake messages, downloading apps through APKs, and so many more are all tactics used to break into phones and gain access. Make sure not to fall prey to any such tactics and install a good anti-virus app in your mobile.
5. Click wisely
Clicking carelessly can lead to several problems. Be wary of any site that asks for unnecessary personal information, credit card details or a bank number when it’s not needed. This could be evidence of them phishing for your sensitive information. Sometimes, the site could say that the details are to “verify you” and that they would never charge you. However, as soon as you hit enter, you will get a message from your bank about some money being debited to XYZ corporation. You should also be wary of suspicious and spam e-mails, online offers that seem too good to be true, sites having very intrusive ads or multiple pop-ups, or sites that tell you to install a certain plugin in order to view content. These are all tactics used to entice clicks and extract personal information.
6. Update, update, update
It might be irritating to update your software time and again, but here’s why you need to do it: viruses are always being updated to find ways to circumvent the latest software version. Your software updates so that it can remain one step ahead of the virus, always. Updating all software ensures that you have the latest security available. Turn on automatic Wi-Fi updates, if possible, so you don’t have to think about it. Also, make sure that your security software runs regular virus scans on your device and scans when a new device like a pen drive is connected to it.
7. Think before installing
Sometimes, while installing a programme on your device, other add-on plug-ins, extensions and software get installed too. Sometimes, the software even changes your default settings. These tactics are not only unethical but risky also. It’s therefore important to read the fine print and see exactly what all is being installed. “Uncheck” items that you don’t need from the installation.
8. Confirm site security
One way to determine if a site you are visiting is trustworthy is to check whether there is a green padlock on your browser’s address bar. The green padlock shows that traffic between you and the site is encrypted and that the domain’s ownership has been validated. Another way to check a site’s trustworthiness is by ensuring the address starts with “https” and not just “http”. However, if you have an anti-virus installed on your device, you won’t be able to visit a suspicious site anyway.
9. E-mail with caution
Malware is often distributed through e-mails. Hackers create and send out sophisticated-looking e-mails that contain either attractive sales offers or official-looking messages from important institutes. These links and/or attachments, when clicked, trigger malware downloads or take you to websites that try to steal your personal information. So, be cautious when checking your e-mails. Do not open e-mails from unknown addresses, and if you do, check the security status of the mail by clicking on the drop-down button next to the sender’s address and looking for the green or grey lock-,- that represent a secured mail. A red lock – – represents an unsecured (suspicious) mail. Also, be suspicious of any unsolicited offers, files, and URLs on the mail (do the links and files look legit? Are there any random string of alphabets in the name?) Finally, do not disclose any of your information on a site you don’t know and trust.
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10. Practice safe online shopping
By 2020, 70% of the Indian internet users would have shopped online at least once. The number of new e-commerce portals that open up on a daily basis is something to marvel and think about. Will all of them be legit? No, of course not. So be careful about the places where you shop online and share your bank details, home/work addresses and your IP address. Shop only on reliable websites that have a secured payment gateway.
Doubts? Questions? Comment below! Wish you a super safe online life!