With the internet, we can access vast amounts of information with only a click or tap. This year, the total number of internet users worldwide reached 5.18 billion, nearly two-thirds of the world’s population. And as immense as the internet is, so are the risks.
To make sure that your time spent online is enjoyable and risk-free, this article provides seven simple internet safety tips. But first, let’s take a look at what internet safety really entails.
Understanding the Basics of Internet Safety
Think of the internet as a vast, crowded city. Just as you’d be cautious in a crowded place, you need to show caution online. Many threats lurk in its corners.
What are these threats? Viruses, the most common ones, can harm your computer or steal data. Then there’s phishing, in which scammers trick you into disclosing personal information. Another threat is ransomware, which locks your files and asks for money to unlock them.
The global cost of cybercrime reached an astounding $8.44 trillion last year.
Learning about cyberthreats is the first step to defending against them. However, dangers evolve over time. Knowing about internet safety means being informed, paying attention, and making wise decisions. As we go further into specific online safety tips, keep in mind these basic principles.
#1 Use Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware Software
When you use the internet, your computer can become a target for harmful programs. These programs, known as malware, can hurt your computer, take your personal info, and even lock your files until you pay a ransom. So, how can you maintain safe internet browsing? The answer is simple: anti-virus and anti-malware software.
Anti-virus software works like a security guard for your computer. It checks everything that enters your system. When it spots a threat, it quickly acts to block or remove it. There are threats that can spread from one file to another, encrypt your files, or monitor what you do.
But in order for the software to function properly, it is necessary to update it regularly. Every day, cybercriminals find new ways to get sensitive info. When you update your antivirus software, you make sure it knows about the newest dangers, enabling it to protect your device.
#2 Keep Your Browser Updated
You use your browser to navigate the vast digital landscape. Making sure it’s up to date is a critical step in ensuring your online safety.
Why are browser updates so important? First, every update often includes security enhancements. Developers continuously identify and fix vulnerabilities in their browsers. Updates provide these fixes and reduce your risk of malicious attacks.
Besides security reasons, an updated browser offers better functionality. Websites evolve, adopting new technologies to improve user experience. Older browsers may not support these changes, causing display issues or site restrictions.
So, how can you keep your browser updated? Here are some steps:
- Open your browser. This might seem basic, but it’s the starting point.
- Go to the settings or options menu. In the top right corner, a gear icon or three vertical dots typically represents it.
- Find the “About” or “Update” section. This is where you can view your current browser version and see if updates are available.
- Follow the prompts. If an update is available, there will often be clear instructions to guide you through the process.
#3: Make Sure Websites Are Secure
When you shop at a store, you probably look for signs that tell you it’s a reputable place. Similarly, when browsing online, it’s crucial to ensure the websites you visit have features that show they are secure.
- First, check the website’s URL. Secure sites begin with “https://”, not just “http://”. “S” stands for “secure” and indicates that data sent between your browser and the website is encrypted, making it harder for cybercriminals to intercept.
- Next, look for a padlock icon in the address bar. This icon assures that the website has a security certificate. Your credit card numbers or passwords are protected when entered on that site.
- Avoid entering any personal information on websites that lack these indicators. It takes a moment to check, but it can save you from many potential online threats.
Secure websites protect your data when shopping, banking, or connecting online. Always ensure websites you visit value your security as much as you do.
#4: Go Private on Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi spots in coffee shops, airports, and malls offer a convenient way to stay connected. But connecting to these open networks can make you vulnerable. Cybercriminals often target these unsecured networks to access personal data from unsuspecting users. How can you guard against these threats?
- You should first examine the network’s credibility. Before connecting, double-check that the network name matches the official name of the establishment. Cybercriminals will sometimes create networks with similar names in order to trick users.
- Prefer to use password-protected networks. This indicates that at least a basic level of security is in place.
- Make use of virtual private networks (VPNs). VPNs encrypt your data, making it more difficult to access for hackers. Turn on your VPN before connecting to public Wi-Fi.
While public Wi-Fi offers convenience, it’s essential to prioritize your safety. Taking a moment to secure internet browsing can prevent online threats. IdentityIQ offers secure browsing with Bitdefender® VPN.
#5: Be Wary of Links and Attachments
The internet is a hub of information, and often, this information reaches us in the form of links and attachments. Many are harmless and from trusted sources, but others can be traps from cybercriminals. It’s crucial to pause before you click.
Clicking on suspicious links can expose your device to threats. Some links can lead you to phishing sites. Others may initiate the download of harmful software without your knowledge.
Attachments in emails can be just as risky. When you open a document or image, you may unknowingly install malware.
To protect yourself, avoid clicking on links from unknown sources. If an email looks out of the ordinary, even if it’s from someone you know, be cautious.
You should also check the URL before you click. If it looks odd or misspelled, it might be a sign of a malicious site.
Don’t download attachments unless you’re expecting them, and always verify the source. A quick web search can often tell you if the company or person is legitimate.
#6: Use a Password Manager
Remembering a different, strong password for every account can be a hassle. This is where password managers come in.
A password manager stores all your passwords in a digital vault, accessible only by a master password. It saves you time by automatically filling in login details when visiting a website.
There are more perks to using a password manager. Many of them can generate random and strong passwords for you. Another advantage is that the stored passwords are encrypted. This means even if someone breaks into the vault, your passwords remain safe.
Choosing a password manager might seem daunting, but there are a few things to consider that can help. Look for one that offers two-factor authentication. This adds an extra layer of security. You should also check reviews and see if the password manager has a good track record.
#7: Be Careful What You Download
The internet offers an endless array of software, apps, and files for download. From fun games to helpful tools, there’s something for everyone. But not all downloads are safe. Cybercriminals often hide malware in appealing packages, hoping you’ll download it without thinking.
Have you ever seen a pop-up on a website offering a free tool or game? Sometimes, these are genuine offers, but other times they are traps. When downloading from such sources, you risk getting more than expected. Instead of a fun game, you might get malware that can steal your data or damage your device.
But what about drive-by downloads? These are sneakier. Some malicious websites try to install software on your computer without your knowledge. You might just be browsing, and behind the scenes the site attempts to put malware on your device.
Always be selective about what you download. Use trusted websites. Check reviews and do a quick search about the software or file you’re considering.
Your device and personal data are valuable. It should be clear that awareness and action are the keys to enjoying the online world while avoiding its pitfalls. The internet safety tips we’ve discussed here are your tools. They are simple, straightforward, and effective.
Taking a few extra minutes to include them when browsing can save you a lot of trouble. If you use them consistently, you and your loved ones will be protected online. Always do your best to keep yourself safe, informed, and proactive.
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