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:
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 information on is secured. You can do this by looking for the padlock symbol in your navigation bar, or by seeing https:// in the URL.
- 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 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.
Think before you share
The thing about the internet is that, once you share something, it’s out there forever. Once you upload something or send it to someone, you lose all control of it. This may not seem so bad when it’s cute pictures of your dog, but when it’s something more private, it has the potential to be devastating:
- Sexting. This term describes the swapping of sexual messages and photos (nude selfies, for example). Although it may seem like a fun way of flirting, it can have serious consequences. Remember, receiving or sending an indecent picture of someone who’s under the age of 18 is illegal in both the UK and the US. This applies even if it’s a photo of yourself or if it’s sent/received with the other person’s permission.
- Online dating. Dating apps and social media make it easier than ever before to meet new people. While most people out there have good intentions, some aren’t what they seem. Make sure you’re aware of how to protect yourself when you’re online dating. Never put your personal contact details or information in your profile, and be careful what you share with people you don’t know. Remember that most dating apps have a minimum age of 18.