We live in a time when the majority of our communications and daily tasks are completed in a virtual setting. We communicate with friends and family, work over the internet, bank online, and even go shopping, online. While the internet has made it easier to communicate and access the goods we need most, it has also made it easier than ever to compromise your personal data.
Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to protect yourself online whether you are working, banking, chatting, or shopping.
Determine the Authenticity of the Webpages You Visit
It is important to determine how authentic the webpages are that you’re visiting. There are a few characteristics that can determine how secure and authentic a webpage is.
A few of these include:
- SSL Certificate: A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a digital certificate that ensures you are visiting a secure link. You can tell if a webpage has an SSL certificate by looking at the URL. Websites with a secure SSL connection have recently moved to an HTTPS versus the previous HTTP precursor.
- Evaluate the website’s URL: Evaluating a website’s URL can offer you more information about its authenticity. Hackers will often use the recognized name of a large brand and then implement it into a different URL. By searching the brand you’re attempting to reach and then comparing it to your site, you can ensure that it is the right website.
- Website’s content: The content on a webpage can tell you a lot about its authenticity. Consider whether or not the content matches the purpose of the site.
- Review the brand (social proof): It is also possible to evaluate authenticity by turning to social proof. Evaluate reviews and whether or not they have a social media presence.
Practice Password Safety/Security
Your password is one of the first steps in keeping your information secure when online. Keep these general tips in mind when it comes to creating a secure password:
- Never reuse your passwords: While it might be tempting, it is recommended that you use different passwords across your online accounts. You should also never reuse them.
- Store your passwords in a secure place: Using a different password on each online account can make it difficult to remember all of your passwords. Storing your passwords in a secure place, like a password manager, can help you recall them, without compromising your confidential data.
- Make passwords long/use special characters: The more letters and special characters, if allowed, that you use in your password, the harder your password is to be breached.
- Use multi-factor authentication: With multi-factor authentication set up, you are required to input more than just your log-in and password to access an account. Depending on the program and the website, it could require other information, including a code or your fingerprint.
Be Careful When Using Public Computers
Public computers, like ones used at the public library, or university computer lab, can hold onto your information and make it easy for others to access it. It is also important to be careful when using free Wi-Fi. If you’re away from home and need to use a public computer or local Wi-Fi, consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPI).
A VPI tunnels your data through a network, essentially blocking hackers from taking your information. If you’re unable to use a VPI, then it is best to avoid accessing websites that contain your personal information, like bank accounts or social media websites. It is also important to make sure that you log out completely from all webpages and online accounts when using a public computer.
Be Aware of the Most Common Hacks
Understanding the most common tactics that today’s hackers use can help you avoid them.
- Email hacks: Phishing and email scams are popular among email and online social media accounts. Hackers use convincing subject lines or they will send you an email from a name that you recognize to encourage you to open it. Inside of the email, there is usually a link, which allows them to access your data, as well as your personal contact list, so they can reach out to your contacts and continue phishing for more data.
- Cookie theft: Cookie theft occurs when hacker’s take your stored personal data, also known as cookies, and use it to access your online accounts. You can avoid cookie theft by only using websites that have an SSL certificate or that have an encrypted log-in process, which protects your information.
- Virus: Each year, approximately two billion records are hacked, with a large number of viruses unintentionally installed onto user’s computers. Once the virus is installed into your computer system, it can manipulate your files or even passively collect your confidential data.
- Malware threats: Malware alerts pop up warning users that they are at risk of an online virus. Then, they are instructed to download anti-virus software to the program, which actually takes control of the computer. The virus can then record your online logins and even transfer your confidential data.
Protect Yourself Against Scammers
It is better to protect yourself from potential scammers than to deal with the aftermath later. Protect yourself and your online information by:
- Installing personal firewalls: Personal firewalls protect you by preventing malicious software from gaining access to your computer’s files.
- Install security software packages: Antivirus software not only detects, but also prevents the most common viruses from accessing your computer.
- Whenever someone messages you online, it’s important to know vital information about who they are. There are tools out there that help track down their social media/email information like Instant Social Report.
Never Give Out Your Personal Information
Unfortunately, when you’re on the internet, it is not always easy to determine if you’re talking to who you think you are. That means it is never a good idea to give out personal information.
Live chat agents and customer support representatives will never request that a customer give out personal information, like bank account information, online. Never respond to emails or chat requests that ask for your personal information. If a friend or family member asks you for information via message or on social media, it is best to reach out to them via phone or in-person to determine if it is really them or not.
Whether you use the internet to keep up with friends and family or you frequently take advantage of the convenience of online shopping, it is important to be aware of the most common safety threats on the internet. Understanding what these threats are and taking the necessary steps to protect yourself will ensure that you can enjoy a convenient and safe online experience.
And whenever someone messages you online, it’s important to know vital information about who they are. There are tools out there that help track down their social media/email information.
Instant Social Support is a website that searches any email account. Plug in the email, hit search, and the site displays information about that person’s account. Instant Social Report backtracks emails to their social media accounts, tracking down important information about people who may know you. And it’s completely free. Try it out at https://instantsocialreport.com/landing/home