Internet safety has become an issue as more and more people are spending more and more time online. The Internet and apps have become more complicated while hackers and predators have grown in numbers. These days, most of us have a definite online presence. We interact on various platforms in groups, networks, organizations, and social media. Most often, we post, comment, like and dislike comments, and add people to our network. We are talking virtually in the apps.
Interaction on the Internet has two distinct safety concerns. The first is technical and the second is human. The technical aspect concerns our connection to the Internet. Do you have antivirus software and a firewall in place? Is your presence protected or are you vulnerable? The human aspect concerns your actions and contacts on the Internet. Are you susceptible to scams and fraud? Do you know who the people you talk to online really are?
Technical Aspects of Internet Safety
I’ve been somewhat of a computing enthusiast ever since personal computers became available. Even put together a desktop computer just to see how it works. It worked beautifully, but got abandoned when I moved onto laptops. Then life got busy and I stopped following the many technical advances in computing but kept up with the basics trying to ensure online safety. I’ll do my best to shed light on the technical aspects keeping it as non-technical as possible.
Essentially, you should have a firewall in place, working antivirus software, and a secure Wi-Fi connection. A firewall is a safety wall between your computer and the Internet. To make it simple, your operating system should have a decent firewall and you should make sure it is enabled. For example, Windows has Windows Defender Firewall. You can access the settings via Control Panel. That’s your basic safeguard.
As for antivirus software, there are plenty of choices out there. This is a matter of personal preference, but use one. Check various reviews and pick the one you feel will give you the best protection. Remember to keep up with updates, which often also include security fixes. Note, though, that antivirus software still won’t catch everything as new threats arise.
If your operating system is, for example, Windows, use at least the basic Windows Defender. For safer browsing on the Internet, you could couple it with McAfee Web Advisor. It monitors the websites you’re accessing keeping you safe if you accidentally click on something you shouldn’t have. Even your browser may stop you from accessing malicious websites. Internet safety is fairly easy to set up and will help protect you from harm.
Last but not least is your connection to the Internet. Many prefer connecting via Wi-Fi, which enables you to move around in your home. Whether you like to cozy up on the couch, sit at a table or be out on the patio, secure your Wi-Fi network. Routers come with good manuals and access with a password can be set up in minutes.
Routine scans are an effective way to discover any type of malware on your computer. Years ago I discovered my trusted friend Malwarebytes, which I use for routinely scanning my laptop and cell phone.
On the Go
Ensure you’re also safe on the Internet when out and about. Secure your mobile device with a PIN, password or pattern. This is easy to do in the security/privacy settings on the device. If someone steals or otherwise obtains your mobile device, they will not get into it, or at least not easily. Many people save their login information to websites and apps for easier access, which is why your device shouldn’t be easy to access. If it is, a lot of your sensitive information could get into wrong hands, which could have devastating consequences.
Cell phones have security and privacy settings configured, so you shouldn’t tamper with these settings unless you know what you’re doing. Contrary to popular belief, you may not need an antivirus software on you cell phone. But if you feel safer having one, get one. They may drain the battery faster, though.
When accessing free, public Wi-Fi connections, connect only to a secure network. Access only secure websites. Commercial hotspot providers, such as Xfinity, can provide a secure connection. Don’t do your online banking or shopping when connected to a public network. You still don’t know exactly how secure it is.
A good option is to use a VPN, a virtual private network. Last year when I was vacationing at a small seashore hotel, they only had an unsecure Wi-Fi connection. Of course, I informed the on-site manager how they could easily make it secure. His response was he would take it to the owner. And I used a VPN.
Human Aspects of Internet Safety
The human aspects of online safety regard your actions and the people you connect with online. Many people let their guard down and act online like they never would in actual social settings. Internet safety is your personal concern and depends on your actions.
Whenever you get a warning about accessing an unsecure website, take it seriously. It can save you from a lot of headache. You would not physically take a walk in an unsafe neighborhood, would you?
Basic Cyber Safety
In general, don’t create accounts or put passwords on sites the address of which begins with “http” without the “s” in the end. These sites may have tempting content, but they don’t provide an encrypted connection. Your information is vulnerable and could be stolen. Furthermore, one click may also infect your device with malware or a virus.
Emails and Downloads
Nowadays, we receive a flood of emails from all kinds of sources. Our email addresses may have been sold to advertisers and spammers. Hackers may have obtained them in a data breach. No matter how lucrative an email is, never click on links in emails from unknown senders.
The same goes for attachments, don’t click on them to open. They may be phishing links or contain something even worse such as remote access Trojans (RAT). RATs can do anything from stealing your private information to recording on your webcam and taking control of your computer or mobile device. You wouldn’t want someone to obtain your private data or wipe out all information on your computer or cell phone.
Even worse is ransomware, which enables criminals to lock your computer from their location. You will see a pop-up saying they will not unlock it until you pay them a certain sum of money. There’s no guarantee of that happening.
You should download programs and apps only from a trusted source. Often, torrents and games are culprits that come with extra baggage and get your computer or mobile device infected. When you download or install something, don’t rush through it. If there’s a customizing option, check if it comes with any extra browsers, programs or add-ons you don’t want.
Your Activities Online
Remember that privacy is a concern now that the Internet has opened up the whole world to us. Check that you have privacy settings enabled both on your operating system, web browser and mobile operating system. As said earlier, when you get a new cell phone, it has privacy settings in place. The same goes for computer operating systems. You can enhance them, but don’t reduce them.
Many major apps such as Facebook have settings to enhance your privacy. They don’t want you to use them, really, because your information has marketing value. Find them and enable/use them. There’s no need for you to put your phone number on a social media site. Never disclose your home address or other sensitive personal information. Have your profile visible only to people with whom you have connected. Connect only with people you know.
Post and comment responsibly. Whatever you write on the Internet, stays there. Other people may have made copies of what you wrote and shared it elsewhere. The app you’re using may let you delete a post or comment, but states that it may still be visible elsewhere in the app or on the web. Consequently, before you hit that post or submit button, think if what you wrote is something you would like your family or employer to read.
One more thing – passwords. When you create an account anywhere online, you’ll need to come up with a password. Don’t make it easy, make it complicated, and don’t use the same password everywhere. You can use a password manager or let your browser remember the password to websites you regularly visit that are not of financial importance or concern your health. Staying safe on the Internet depends on you using it in a safe way.
Other People Online
When you interact with someone online, do you know at all who they are? There are a lot of conversations taking place on so many platforms. Unfortunately, many let their guard down and just get into it, forgetting Internet safety. Most of the time, we don’t know who we are talking to in chat rooms and on forums and social platforms. We forget to care as long as we are heard and hopefully liked or manage to stir the pot with some controversy. That is social media these days.
When it matters, though, is when it gets personal. You meet people online and take it for granted that they are who they say they are. Ever consider that a person you’re talking to online may not even exist? Hackers, scammers and predators come up with fake profiles and make friends with real people eventually to gain financially or personally from the situation. It could be outright fraud, extortion, stalking, bullying, obtaining your personal sensitive information, etc.
If you’re interested in somebody, you’ll try to find as much information about them as you can. Running an online search may prove the person to exist. However, if you have not personally met them, it could be a stolen profile. The real person is unaware that their social profile has been stolen by a scammer and you believe you are talking to that real person. Makes you wonder who you might be talking to online right now, doesn’t it?
Basically, it’s good to remember the saying that if something sounds too good be true, then it most likely is just that.
Stay Safe on the Internet
Is there a way to stay 100% safe on the Internet? Yes, don’t access it. Now that’s crazy talk, because we have become dependent on it. Online shopping, online banking, online bill-pay, online dating…the list goes on. However, we should not conduct our lives online any different than we do in the physical world.
You can increase your Internet safety by controlling how you access the Internet and what you do there. At least, remember these two things:
- Have the necessary technical precautions in place. That’s equivalent to you locking your doors at home and using a security system.
- Use common sense when you interact with strangers online. That equals to you not walking in high-crime areas or pouring out your personal information to a stranger you encounter on a street, in a shop or at a bar.
My intention was to give you some points to ponder. Hopefully, I managed to do just that. Exchanging ideas and opinions online can be fun. You can also learn from other people’s experiences and maybe find advice how to solve a problem you’re facing. But…be careful out there. We at PeopleSearchLive take everybody’s privacy seriously. You should do the same with your privacy and stay safe online.