The 20th annual Safer Internet Day is taking place on February 7! Safer Internet Day is a campaign that aims to educate the public on internet safety and encourage everyone to take part in creating a safer internet.

Why is Safer Internet Day Important?

Online safety is a global issue, with 60% of the world population using the internet. Safer Internet Day promotes the idea that everyone, from young people to educators to policymakers and business leaders, can play a role in creating a safer internet.

Internet users can be targeted for identity theft, financial fraud and other scams. There are also dangerous risks associated with online predators, sexual exploitation, cyberbullying and more.

What are the Dangers of the Internet?

Here are some of the most common threats that exist on the internet:

  • Identity theft. Personally identifiable information (PII) obtained online can be used to impersonate someone to commit fraud.
  • Criminals may pose as a legitimate person or organization to trick their victims into taking actions that put them at risk.
  • Online scams. The internet is full of online scams including payment app scams, ticketing scams, extortion, fake charities and online marketplace schemes.
  • Malware software can be used to access sensitive data on your device or computer network.
  • Bullies use the internet to intimidate, harass or spread negative information about their victims.
  • Online predators. Predators seek to contact children online to use them for exploitative, abusive or sexual purposes.

7 Internet Safety Tips

A completely safe version of the internet is improbable, but there are strategies you can use to protect yourself. Here are seven safer internet tips to stay safe online:

1. Update Your Software

Software developers release updates and patches to operating systems, programs and apps. Install these updates to make sure you have the most up-to-date security.

2. Use a Strong Password

Use these methods to create stronger passwords that protect your online accounts:

  • Create longer passwords that are tougher to crack with numbers and special characters.
  • Avoid common phrases like song lyrics or sports team names.
  • Avoid using personal information like your pet’s name or your mother’s maiden name.
  • Don’t reuse the same password, or variations of the same password, across multiple accounts.
  • Use a password manager to create unique, strong passwords for every account you own.

3. Set up Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) gives you extra layers of security for online accounts. When you enter your username and password to login, MFA sends you a temporary code through an app, text message or email. The code must be entered to get into your account, and it will quickly expire. You should enable MFA for all accounts.

4. Be Wary of Internet Scams and Phishing

Here are some commonsense ways to help avoid internet and phishing scams:

  • Look for suspicious red flags in any communications you receive. Spelling and grammar errors, urgent requests for information, suspicious email addresses and unsolicited links or attachments are signs of a scam.
  • When you receive a request from an organization, verify it through official channels. For example, if you receive a request from your bank to reset your password, call your bank using the number on their website or your bank statement to verify the request.
  • Only use secure websites (look for the padlock icon in your browser’s address bar that shows the connection is encrypted). This doesn’t prove a website is legitimate, but you should avoid any sites that don’t provide this level of security.
  • Never provide PII online or over the phone.
  • If something seems fishy, trust your instincts.

5. Think Before Clicking Links or Attachments

Don’t automatically follow links or download attachments, even if you believe they are coming from a legitimate source. Phishing emails, websites and even apps on your phone’s app store may contain hidden scams or malware, ransomware and viruses. Verify that a link or download is trustworthy before you engage with it.

6. Use a Secure Internet Connection

When you connect to an unsecured Wi-Fi network, the information you send and receive is vulnerable. Only connect to secure, password-protected, and encrypted networks that you trust. When in public, it’s generally better to use your mobile network whenever you’re doing something you wouldn’t want someone else to see.

7. Monitor Your Personal Information

When fraud goes unnoticed, it can continue for months or even years before it’s discovered. Always monitor your bank account, credit card statements and even social media to ensure all the activity is authorized.

You also need to monitor your credit report, which is usually where signs of identity theft first appear. You can monitor your credit reports yourself or sign up with a monitoring service, such as IdentityIQ, that automates the process and notifies you when significant changes and suspicious activity occurs.