The internet is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. Aside from providing us with an endless source of memes and cat videos, it has connected the world, transformed entertainment, and made our lives far more convenient. However, with such good comes some risk - you’ve no doubt seen media coverage about concerns over data privacy and online security. That’s why online safety is important, and why we’ve written this guide to help you.
Why is online safety important?
Back in the 90s (yes, some of us remember those ancient times), the internet was a different place. Dial-up modems, ‘surfing the net’, and Internet Explorer were all common things. Just check out this (unintentionally hilarious) video that covers the basics of the World Wide Web.
As the technology has improved and become more ingrained in our lives, we rely on it for almost everything. In doing so, we leave our personal and private data at risk. One way to reduce that risk is to practice good internet safety (for a detailed guide, this site is useful).
Whether you’re a total technophobe or fairly IT-literate, there are certain steps you can take to protect your computer, yourself, and your data online:
Protect your computer
Not to sound too dramatic, but the internet is full of potential dangers to your computer. Viruses, Trojans, malware, and other nasties lurk, waiting for unprotected users. Whether it’s through visiting websites, opening emails, or downloading files, you may end up accidentally exposing your computer to malicious content. Here are some steps you can take to protect it:
- Ensure you have some antivirus, antimalware and antispyware software running, as well as a firewall. You can find plenty of free antivirus software. Make sure you keep it up to date with the latest version.
- Don’t download software, files, or apps from sources you’re not familiar with. Malware (malicious software) is rife, and cybercriminals are good at disguising it. Before you run a newly downloaded program, make sure to give it a scan. Software such as Malwarebytes is useful.
- Make sure your operating system is up-to-date. Platforms such as Windows are pretty good at detecting threats, but only when they have the latest version installed.
- Be wary of emails. Even if you think it comes from a legitimate source, double check the sender’s address before clicking on links or downloading attachments. As a general rule, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Watch out for files with .exe in the title. If you don’t know the source, they can often be harmful. Whether it’s an email attachment, on a random USB device, or website download, scan it before you run it.
Nowadays, many of us use our computers and smartphones for shopping, banking, and staying in touch. Keeping your money, accounts, and privacy safe requires some effort:
- Be careful with your passwords, PIN number, and bank details. Make sure that any website you enter such information on is secured. You can do this by looking for the padlock symbol in your browser navigation bar, or by seeing https:// in the web address.
- Consider using a password manager. Although you might think that password1234 is an excellent and memorable password for just about every account you have, it’s not going to take a genius to crack it. Password Manager software creates strong and secure software for each of your accounts.
- Be careful with the content you share, send, and upload. If you have private documents or images saved digitally, consider who you share them with and where you upload them. Once such information is out there online, it’s hard to get it back.
Protect your data
Personal data is becoming a new commodity. Companies collect and share all kinds of information about you, your browsing habits, and how you use the internet. It’s important you know how to protect your data:
- Know how social media uses your data. Default settings on sites like Facebook and Instagram can leave the content you create and share visible to more people than you’d expect. Review your data settings to see what information is stored and shared.
- Take action if there’s a data breach. There have been cases recently where companies have compromised the data of their customers. You can find out if you’ve been affected and should take steps if you have. Change passwords, enable two-step authentication, and review your online accounts.
- Know your rights. In the EU, recent changes to the law mean that you have more rights and protection surrounding how your data is handled. The GDPR act gives you control over what you share.
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