The Best Ways to Stay Safe While Browsing Online
Fraudsters are indiscriminate in whom they target: everyone is fair game. From small and medium enterprises to regular folks, cybercrime is a reality that we all have to contend with. Multiple browsers are now equipped with tools to help determine whether your email has been identified in a data breach. Consider Firefox Monitor as a case in point. One of the most commonly searched topics on the web is, ‘online safety tips’, and for good reason.
Since so many of us use the Internet for shopping, socializing, and schmoozing, it’s no wonder that online security is such a high priority objective. In this complete guide, we identify at least 10 Internet safety rules to live by. Get comfortable, we are about to take you on a whirlwind tour through the many safety nets of the World Wide Web!
#1 – Create Strong Passwords for Each of the Websites You Frequently Visit
Passwords are keys to virtual vaults of data. Email, banking, shopping, social media, and the like are password protected, for good reason. Your identity is secured behind alphanumeric keys of characters; the proverbial 1s and 0s. Nowadays, it’s entirely possible to use password generators, and password protectors to automatically create cryptographically secure combinations of codes. These are virtually undetectable, even by the smartest computers. Provided you secure your passwords properly, with additional passwords, or behind the veil of your browser, you should be A-OK. Never use easily guessable passwords to secure sensitive, personal information. That’s just an accident waiting for a place to happen.
#2 – Maintain Maximum Functional Privacy Settings
Privacy settings on your browser determine how much information about you marketing companies are going to find, or solicit from your system. The greater your online privacy, the less information they can extract from cookies, breadcrumbs, and other bits of virtual data that is imprinted on sites you visit, and links you click. You can opt for enhanced privacy settings on specific websites, such as Facebook, but you may have to search high and low for these features since they are buried deep within websites. Check your browser (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Explorer) for privacy settings, and toggle to meet your specific needs.
#3 – Download and Install Web Protection Mechanisms such as MyWOT
Unfortunately, browsers alone cannot protect you from the damage that bad actors are capable of doing on the Internet. For beefed up security, you are going to want something with plenty of firepower, like MyWOT. This community-driven web protection mechanism features over 140 million global users who rate websites according to their safety level. Unsafe websites get red-flagged, effectively preventing disaster before it happens. MyWOT has passed the litmus test in terms of preventing users from downloading harmful content, malware, adware, viruses, Trojans, and other phishing and pharming attacks. It’s also a powerful app scanning resource so that you never have to download a potentially toxic app to your mobile device. With so many third-party apps running in parallel with the Google Play Store, it’s no wonder that ‘infections’ are rampant.
#4 – Try Using a VPN, or Tor
One of the problems that people face online is an easily identified IP address. This Internet protocol address provides hackers with valuable information about your computer, your connection, and your data. By obfuscating your IP address from public view, using a VPN (virtual private network), you can secure your browsing sessions. A word of warning: VPN companies are not all cut from the same cloth. Some of them actually sell your personal data to 3rd parties.
And, if pressed, many of them will fold and hand over your information, including email address, IP address, financial information, et cetera to the authorities. Be sure to thoroughly research the privacy policies of the VPN providers before you sign up willy-nilly. Tor – The Onion Router – is another powerful tool which effectively relays your traffic through multiple different pathways, by hiding your identity, and the sites you’re looking at. Be advised that both of these options will slow down your Internet traffic substantially, since connections are obtuse, not direct.
#5 – Use Common Sense When Posting Online
Unfortunately, too many people volunteer personal, sensitive information to hackers. What could be worse than handing over the keys to your home, your bank account, or your loved ones to criminals on a silver platter? But that’s what some people do online. They post pictures of their family members, without regard for the safety, security, and privacy settings of those pictures.
Worse, some of these pictures, and bits of information contain sensitive data such as bank account numbers, telephone numbers, addresses, drivers licenses, or simply an entire library of the contents of your home. Anyone who is determined to commit fraud will see these pictures as an invitation to do what they like. Common sense also dictates that you never give out personal information to strangers online. Plus, you must never agree to meet a stranger in a secluded place, and never access content that shouldn’t be accessed a.k.a. the dark web with its bad actors lurking in the shadows.
#6 –Always Keep Your Systems Up-To-Date
By systems, we mean your operating system software, your antivirus software, your applications, and your updates. Fortunately, most of these processes are set to take place automatically. Sometimes you may be required to manually adjust these preferences to update accordingly. Just recently Mac systems upgraded to a new operating system Big Sur, and Windows operating systems are continually updating. If you don’t update, you leave yourself vulnerable to attack. Stay ahead of the curve and keep all of your programs up-to-date. If applications are no longer relevant on upgraded software systems, delete them – they serve no purpose.
#7 – Don’t Open Attachments from Unknown Senders via Email
This is a no-brainer. If you don’t know who is sending you the email, or you have your doubts about the validity, veracity, or credibility of the sender – rather delete the email. If it’s important, they will contact you again in a timely fashion. Before you click on links, be sure to have your AV software already updated. Much like the Trojan horse, bad actors use emails and attachments as a way into your system. What they’re hiding is way worse than anything you have ever imagined.
#8 – Never Use Public Wi-Fi If You Cannot Avoid It
This comes as a shock to many who travel frequently, in and out of airports, hotels, and public Wi-Fi hotspots. Unfortunately, there is always a bad apple in the bunch, somewhere out there. When you travel to a hotel and you’re sitting in the lobby, or at the pool with your laptop, rather connect your laptop to your iPhone and run a relay connection. It’s much safer than connecting to the hotel’s public Wi-Fi. And if you have to use Wi-Fi in a public place like Starbucks, or elsewhere, use a VPN to encrypt your traffic. There are many ways to work around the issue of public Wi-Fi – make a point of learning how it’s done.
#9 – Stay Abreast of the Latest Scams, Fraud, and Hacking Activity
There is no substitute for knowledge! The more you know about the latest scams, the less likely you are to fall victim to them. Recently, cryptocurrency enthusiasts using Ledger Hardware were part of a wide-reaching phishing scam. This heinous activity targeted crypto users with Ledger wallets, and attempted to get them to reveal 24-word phrases through a fictitious website. Fortunately, news of this broke and Ledger released directives to all of its users not to click on the fake links, or enter information.
#10 – Use Low Limit Credit Cards When Shopping Online
This one will not prevent you from getting hacked, but it will limit the damage that is done if you happen upon a fraudulent website. By keeping a low-limit credit card for your e-commerce activity, you are putting a cap on how much anyone can steal from you. That’s the bottom line – no more. Even if your bank gives you a hard time, you cannot lose more than the low-limit on that card.