Getting into the habit of consciously implementing safe practices when using the Internet is simpler than you may think. Below are 9 simple ways you can protect yourself online.
Use Unique & Strong Passwords To Protect Yourself Online
One of the most common ways to protect yourself online is by having a password. But a simple combination of letters and numbers is no longer enough.
Your aunt’s middle name or your baby brother’s birthday can be easily guessed or decrypted. Rather try a sentence with numbers and symbols mixed in.
Also having the same password for all your accounts can be risky. Hackers can easily copy the password from one account to the next. It is best to have different passwords for each account.
This might seem like an impossible feat. How are you to remember all the passwords you need? A password manager can help.
A password manager is an app or program that generates random passwords for every account. The information is then stored securely in the manager.
You can also set the manager to sign into your accounts automatically when you log into the manager. For this, all you need to remember is the manager’s login details and password.
Alternatively, if you don’t want your passwords stored digitally (since hacking can be a problem), use the Password Manager in your PAS Planner.
Stay Up To Date
Updates can be annoying when you are in a rush to use your device, but they usually include new security measures developed by the provider.
New security measures are included in updates to ensure better defence for users. Older versions are not as secure; they are easier to hack, and more open to viruses.
Some companies no longer update older versions of operating systems, and this leaves the user vulnerable to pending attacks.
To protect yourself online, it’s best to turn on automatic updates and leave the rest to your device.
Use Two-Step Verification For Online Protection
Two-step-verification adds an extra layer of protection to your accounts. It is easy to steal login details and passwords, but the extra step makes theft a bit more complicated.
It requires more than login data and a password, which can be easily stolen. The second step is usually a code sent to your mobile, or a security question. It can sometimes also be a biometric scan, such as facial recognition or a fingerprint scan.
An extra layer of protection is advised when you have personal information stored in the account and especially for banking and internet transactions.
Back Up & Clean Up
Backing up your information is a mundane task but a simple way to protect yourself online. Backups are a form of protection against malware and ransomware.
In case you don’t know the difference, malware corrupts or deletes your data, while ransomware steals your data and demands money for it to be returned.
This can be a problem if you don’t back up regularly, but is less concerning if you make it a weekly practice.
Another weekly task should be clearing your cache and cookies.
The browser cache stores information such as your searches, but can also store locations and personal information.
Cookies are a way for websites to store information, and while some require it before you can continue, others do not. You should only accept the cookies that are absolutely necessary and clear the history as often as possible.
When Checking Your Email
When checking your email, never open an email from an address you do not recognise.
Many viruses are sent over email, and some do not have to be downloaded or clicked on. Drive-by downloads are viruses that download automatically once the email is opened.
Another way to protect yourself online is to have different emails for different purposes. This can help you easily detect scams, such as financial fraud, when an email from your bank is sent to the email you only use for work.
Also, email is not encrypted. This means that an email with your banking and personal information can easily be hacked or stolen. It is best to not put these types of information into an email.
Make Sure Everything Is Encrypted For Online Security
Encryption is an online security measure done by the website you are visiting. The encryption turns your data into code that is harder to decipher if it is stolen.
To see whether a website is encrypted, you can look for a lock on the screen, likely in the address bar at the top. If the lock is closed, your data is protected by an SSL (secure sockets layer). If unlocked, an SSL is most likely not present, and the data you enter remains plain text and is unsafe.
Another simple way to see whether a website is encrypted is in the url itself. If the url starts with “https,” the site is secure; if it is “http,” the site is not.
A good way to protect yourself online is to not buy from or enter information into a site that is not secure. It is also valuable to read the site’s privacy policies.
To Protect Yourself Online, Protect Your Information
Sharing information online has become a daily task for many people. We all have social media, and we all post to our stories, boards, or whatever the case may be.
Social media is a fun, free way to connect with friends, read interesting articles, or do fun quizzes. But social media has also become a hub for hackers, predators, and more unsavoury types who seek out vulnerable targets.
Some simple ways to enjoy social media while you protect yourself online are:
- Do not use your full name; rather set up a username.
- Be conscious of how much you share; the less information, the better.
- Treat strangers like strangers. They are not your friends; you don’t know them.
- Find a private protection suite to secure your information separately from the platform you visit.
- IMPORTANT: Do NOT share your credit card information!
Always Use Secure WiFi
Unsecure WiFi is an easy target for hackers. To protect yourself online, you should be cautious and careful with your WiFi.
At home, you should have a good password for your WiFi or change the password regularly. Someone using your Wifi could be stealing your information while they are connected to your router.
Avoid using public WiFi as others on the network can easily intercept and steal your information. If you must, use a VPN to encrypt your data before sending it over unsecure WiFi. Do not share your personal or bank information over public WiFi, even with a VPN.
While you are in public, check whether people are watching you. It may seem silly, but watching you type in your password can be as good as hacking it from your own computer.
Also, do not log into websites that require information from a computer you do not own. Some computers can save your information and passwords without your knowledge.
Key loggers are a risk from unknown computers as they save your typing pattern. This can help whomever the computer belongs to to gain access to your information and passwords.
A simple way to protect yourself online, is by activating browser blacklisting and using a private browser.
Browser blacklisting is a feature some browsers have which allows only secure sites to be visible. Using a private browser protects you against tracking, which is the way hackers follow your searches and steal login information.
Invest In An Antivirus With VPN For Online Security
Most devices these days are sold with a defender program already installed. However, these programs are baseline programs, and even free antivirus programs have better protection.
Finding a good antivirus program is key to better online security, but you shouldn’t only install the program.
Yes, antivirus programs run in the background and protect you automatically after installation. But you should explore the features available.
Some antiviruses come with a VPN, malware protection, backup capabilities, and more that you need to activate. Simply activating the program is not enough to protect yourself online.
Antivirus programs also keep getting better at their job, so keep your program up to date and scan your device regularly.
RECAP - My Internet Safety Checklist
- Unique & Strong Passwords – With uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and unique characters. At least 8 characters long. Longer is better.
- Change passwords frequently.
- Passwords for different accounts.
- Password Manager.
- Software Updates – Keep devices up to date. Turn on automatic updates.
- Two-Step Verification – Opt in to two-step verification wherever possible.
- Back up Data – Back up your information weekly. Turn on automatic backups where possible.
- Clean Up – Clean your cache and cookie history weekly. Only accept necessary cookies.
- Encryption – Ensure that the website you are on is encrypted.
- Look for a locked lock on the website.
- Ensure the url starts with “https.”
- Protect Information – Be conscious of what you share. The less information, the better.
- Use a username.
- Strangers are still strangers.
- Install a private protection suite.
- Don’t share credit card information.
- Secure WiFi – Secure your WiFi and be wary of public WiFi.
- Use a strong password on home WiFi.
- Change home WiFi password regularly.
- Use a VPN on public WiFi.
- Don’t log in on a computer you don’t own.
- Enable browser blacklisting.
- Use a private browser.
- Antivirus – Buy or download a free antivirus. Do not rely on the factory product already installed. Try one with a VPN option.
- Install & explore antivirus.
- Activate features that you need.
- Update antivirus regularly.
Unfortunately, none of this information will be relevant unless you apply the knowledge. You should share these practices with your friends and family so they, too, can protect themselves.
- Computer Hope. “How to protect yourself while on the Internet,” Computer Hope, November 10, 2022.
- NortonLifeLock Employee. “10 Critical Steps To Help Protect Yourself Online,” Norton, n/a.
- Rubenking, N.J. & Duffy J. “12 Simple Things You Can Do to Be More Secure Online,” PCMag, May 18, 2022.
- Unknown. “7 Tips for Protecting Yourself Online,” WestStar Bank, n/a.
- Unknown. “Top 10 Ways to Protect Your Identity Online,” UTICA University, n/a.