You are welcome to another informative page on our Tips series. Today, I want to answer the question, “How can you Protect yourself online?” I felt the need to write an article to provide tips on how best people can protect themselves online because the Internet has become an integral part of our lives. We are in the digital age and our lives have become intertwined with the online world. We now rely on the Internet to carry out most of out daily activities. Most people rely on the social media to connect with the important people in their lives; others rely on the Internet to find direction, carry out banking transactions, stay abreast with the news and so on.
However, because of this increased connectivity and our unavoidable dependence on the Internet, there’s a great need for understanding and practicing online Security.
The reason is because unscrupulous people are taking advantage of unsuspecting Internet users and defrauding them on a daily basis. There are so many pervasive Threats online right now, and these include identity theft, cyberattacks, financial fraud and lots more. These threats can attack your personal and professional data, and cause to unimaginable losses.
My goal in this article is to provide you with a comprehensive guide on how you can protect yourself online. So if you’re concerned about identity theft, cyberattacks or online privacy; if you are concerned about your safety online, this post will provide you with all the information you need to stay safe online.
Why is Protecting Yourself Online so Important?
The Internet does not enjoy the patronage of only legitimate people. Cybercriminals and fraudsters also stalk around the digital world seeking for opportunities to exploit unsuspecting users.
As you are reading this, there are billions of malicious threats on the Internet targeted are innocent users. Examples of these threats include phishing, malware, ransomware and identity theft.
This makes it crucial for every genuine Internet user to be aware of the prevailing threats and their antidotes (online security practices).
You need to learn how to protect yourself online. You need to learn about tools and strategies you can use to protect your personal and financial information from falling into the wrong hands.
If you neglect to do so, it can result in dire consequences, including financial losses, damage to your reputation and even legal issues.
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So How Can You Protect Yourself Online?
Most times, when you’re thinking about protecting yourself online, it is because you are concerned about your personal, financial and health information. You want to learn strategies to keep hackers and other cybercriminals out of your accounts and personal business.
Here are some of the things you can do to protect yourself online:
1. Choose Strong Passwords
For various reasons, you have need to create accounts online. The accounts may be for social purposes or for financial reasons. Such accounts always require that the intending user will create a unique username and password.
But because of the need to use a password they can easily remember, many online users make the mistake of choosing weak and easily guessable passwords. Some people still choose passwords like “abcdefgh” or “123456789” or simply “password”. Others use their dog’s name, kid’s date of birth or even their own name.
Using such weak and easily guessable passwords is extending an open invitation to cybercriminals. Please stop doing that.
Yes, you need a password that you can easily remember. But the password MUST also be hard for other people or even malicious programs to guess.
The best passwords are those that contain a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols or special characters to ensure complexity. They must also have reasonable length of at least 12 characters.
If you find coming up with memorable and complex passwords a bit too tasking, you can use a password management app. Password management apps can generate and store your passwords for you. More so, you can easily generate unique passwords for each of your online accounts using a password manager. This way, if one account is compromised, the others would remain secure.
Finally on this password issue. If you can change your password several times in a year, don’t fail to be doing so. That habit will give your online accounts extra security.
2. Use Two-factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts. Most times, it involves something you alone know (i.e. your username and password) and something you have (a mobile device). So after logging into your account using your username and password, 2FA would require you to verify your identity.
In most cases, you will need to enter a one-time code or password sent by email or text to your phone. Where that is not the case, you will have to answer a security question.
That’s the meaning of two-factor authentication in simple terms.
Whenever two-factor authentication is available, don’t hesitate to opt. So that even if your password is compromised, an attacker would not be able to access your account without the second factor.
3. Secure Your Devices
It is your devices that give you access to the world of Internet. So whatever device you’re using, whether a computer, smartphone or tablet, you need to ensure that they are always secure.
Here are some of the things you can do to secure your devices.
- Lock your devices using PINs and passwords. You can also use biometric security (like fingerprint or face recognition) to lock your devices.
- Go to your device settings and enable it to lock automatically after a certain period of inactivity. With this, your device will be secure when you’re not using it.
- Where possible, enable remote wipe features so that if your device is lost or stolen, you can erase its data from wherever you are.
4. Perform Regular Software and Security Updates
Most times, when software programs are updated by the providers, the essence is to fix critical security holes in the previous version. The implication is that when softwares become outdated, they become vulnerable or susceptible to attacks.
Hackers often exploit the vulnerabilities in outdated software and operating systems. So you need to perform regular updates on your apps, programs and operating system in order to stay safe online.
Depending on the device you’re using, always ensure that your operating system, softwares or apps are up-to-date with the latest updates. You can enable automatic updates whenever possible so that you can stay safe without manual intervention.
5. Browse Safely
Viruses and other forms of malware are able to spread because most online users hardly pay attention to safety while browsing. They just browse innocently forgetting that they are targets of online threats.
You need to learn to browse safely every time you are online. Otherwise, you will be susceptible to online threats.
One of the ways to browse safely is to always pay close attention to identify secure websites. A basic way to identify secure websites is to observe their URL a bit more closely. If the website is secure, the URL would start with “https://” with a padlock icon displaying in the address bar.
If you don’t see that, it simply means that the website is not secure. It also tells you to avoid entering sensitive information like payment details or even login credentials on the site.
Another way to browse safely is to avoid suspicious links. Don’t download from strange links especially in your email. Be very cautious with email links. Don’t click on links in emails that look strange or suspicious, even if it’s from a friend or a family member. (Because it’s possible their own accounts may have been compromised, you never can tell.) If a family member or a trusted friend sends you a suspicious link, don’t click on it. Call them to confirm. Otherwise, copy and paste the link into a reputable link checker.
More so, ensure that you only download files and software from reputable and trusted sources. Stay away from torrents and unofficial websites.
5. Pay Attention to Email Security
Email services is a common vector for phishing attempts and other cyber threats. For that reason, you must pay attention to email security.
My first advise on this is that you should not open mails from strangers. Most of such mails have malwares attached to them and they can install malware on your hard drive and cause severe damage to your home network.
But if you must open emails from strangers, here are a few things you can do to ensure your security:
- Recognize phishing attempts. In case you don’t know the meaning of phishing, it is the act of deceiving an Internet user into revealing personal information or clicking on malicious links. You need to be able to recognize such attempts when you see them.
- Carefully check out the addresses of the sender of the emails that get to your inbox. Cybercriminals often use slight variations of the legitimate addresses you know. Be careful.
- Always be on the lookout for red flags. I will give you some examples: when a mail is making an unsolicited request for your sensitive information, it’s a red flag. If a mail is replete with typos, grammatical errors and generic greetings, it’s a red flag.
6. Protect your Personal Information
Protecting your personal information is essential if you must protect yourself online. You must learn how to safeguard your personal information to prevent identity theft, fraud and other cyber crimes.
Here are few points to note on this…
- If you’re fond of noting sensitive information like usernames, passwords or security questions on physical documents, you must learn to destroy the documents whenever you need to dispose them. You can use a cross-cut shredder.
- Be cautious about sharing personal information online, especially on social media platforms. Social media platforms are veritable information goldmines for cybercriminals. And once an information is dropped on the social media, it’s difficult to retract. So you need to always think before sharing. More so, adjust your privacy settings to limit who can view your personal information, especially on your profile.
7. Prioritize Security when Shopping and Banking online
Because of the way the world has evolved in the past few years, most people now engage in online shopping and banking.
There are lots of e-commerce websites where people can order for goods and services online. They are fast and convenient, but can expose users to cybercriminals.
So you need to prioritize security when engaging in online shopping and banking.
Here are things you can do:
- Shop only from e-commerce websites that have high trust scores.
- You should prefer credit cards over debit cards for online transactions. The reason is because credit cards offer more protection than debit cards.
- Be sure that you’re on a secure network before conducting any financial transaction.
- Get into the habit of monitoring your accounts regularly. Normalize regular review of your bank and credit statements for any unauthorized charges.
8. Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A VPN can enhance your online privacy. It does so by hiding your IP address and making it difficult for websites and cybercriminals to trace your online activities back to you.
A VPN can also enhance your online security by encrypting your internet traffic. By so doing, it prevents eavesdropping on public Wi-Fi networks.
So if you are looking to protect yourself online, you need a VPN. But before you choose a VPN service, ensure that you do your due diligence. Research and choose a reputable VPN service with a track-record of strong security and privacy. In addition to this, you also need to go for a VPN that has a strict no-logs policy, meaning that they don’t record your online activities.
9. Use Antivirus and Anti-Malware Software
If you’re truly concerned about protecting yourself online, using a reliable antivirus software is a must.
Antivirus software is your digital shield against malware and other online threats. It scans your computer in real time, identifies and quarantines threats.
But since new threats are constantly surfacing online, your antivirus is also one of the softwares you need to keep updated. That way, it can recognize the latest threats and quarantine them appropriately.
10. Educate Yourself and Stay Informed
Since online threats are continually evolving, one last way you can protect yourself online is by educating yourself and doing your best to always stay informed. You must be able to recognize evolving threats and vulnerabilities.
Here’s how to go about it:
- be committed to learning and updating yourself on the latest online threats and vulnerabilities.
- follow security experts and forums to gain insights into current issues.
- also follow reputable technology news websites to stay informed.
- read annual cybersecurity reports to understand trends and threats.
Beyond educating yourself, you also need to educate your family. The reason is because you might be observing all the necessary security protocols on your home network, but if other family members aren’t doing their part, you may still experience what you’re trying to avoid. Ensure that everyone who has access to your network also knows how to protect themselves online.
Conclusion of the Article on “How Can You Protect Yourself Online?”
In this detailed and comprehensive guide, I have tried to answer the question, “How can you protect yourself online?” The question itself suggests that it is your own responsibility to protect yourself online. I suggested 10 things you can do to significantly minimize the risk of becoming a victim to cybercriminals.
But you need to appreciate the fact that the effort to protect yourself online does not involve once-and-for-all actions. It is a continues process that requires staying informed and vigilant because online threats are constantly evolving.
Finally, if online safety is your priority, you need to also encourage those around you to make it theirs too. Help me to reach others with this post by sharing with friends on Social Media. Just scroll down to see the Facebook and Twitter (X) and other social media buttons. So that together, we can keep cybercriminals and threats at bay and make the internet a safer place for everyone. Thank you so much!
See you on the next article.
The post How Can You Protect Yourself Online? Learn 10 Ways first appeared on SureSuccess.Ng.