As the internet becomes a more and more central part of our daily lives, from online shopping to applying for a job or even keeping in touch with family, we’re also becoming more vulnerable to security breaches and online scams. But with a few easy tips and tricks, you can increase your online security and reduce your risk of exposing your data. For more information, click the links below or check out StaySafeOnline.org’s YouTube channel!
- Consider Your Clicks and Sniff Out Scams
One of the most common ways hackers access your data is through phishing. Phishing attacks involve sending an email, text, or other message that appears to be legitimate but is, in fact, a trick to get you to click a malicious link, download malware, or share sensitive information. Likewise, there are many other types of online scams where bad actors use various tricks to get your data or steal your money.
To learn more about phishing and other online scams, check out this article from IBM. You can also watch a recording of PCs for People’s “Staying Safe Online” workshop from 1/12/24, featuring special guest cybersecurity expert Robert Ballard from Alpine Bank! Click here to view the slide deck from this workshop.
2. Up Your Password Game
Passwords are generally your first line of defense against bad actors trying to steal your data or access your accounts. Use different passwords for every account, create longer passwords that use symbols and numbers, and avoid basing your passwords on things in your personal life, such as the names of a family member or pet.
That sounds like a lot, but there’s a very easy way to do this! Password manager programs are used to create and keep track of strong, unique passwords for all your logins, and most smartphones and internet browsers come with password managers already built in. Click here to learn more about creating secure passwords or to test the strength of your passwords.
3. Not All Networks Are Created Equal
Be careful when using public or shared Wi-Fi networks. These networks are usually unsecured, so anyone could snoop on what you’re doing while connected to the network. Avoid using an unsecured network to log in to sensitive accounts like email, online banking, or social media.
Suppose you need to access a sensitive account while on public Wi-Fi, skip the app, and go to the website (for example, use facebook.com in a browser rather than the Facebook app). Look for URLs starting with https or a lock symbol in your browser’s address bar–these indicate that a website uses encryption to protect your data even on an unsecured network. Click here to learn more about public Wi-Fi risks.
4. Up-To-Date Updates
Don’t wait to update your device! Most software updates from your smartphone to your laptop include security upgrades and patches. If you’re behind on updates, you leave open vulnerabilities for bad actors to exploit. We recommend setting devices to automatically update or at least to notify you as soon as an update is available. If you’re using antivirus or other security software, ensure it is updated regularly. Click here to learn more about the importance of keeping your devices updated.
5. Prioritize Privacy
Many devices, websites, and programs give you options to customize your privacy settings. This might involve asking permission to access your location or your camera, whether to allow apps and websites to track you to personalize the ads you see or controlling who can see what you post on social media.
In general, try to keep your privacy settings as locked down as possible. This article recommends key settings on many of the most popular devices, apps, and websites.
- StaySafeOnline.org: Resources and Guides from the National Cybersecurity Alliance
- Identity Theft and Online Security Resources from the Federal Trade Commission
- Your Data and Privacy Help Desk from The Washington Post
- Learn about and practice creating safe passwords with Google Sheets
- Practice identifying and avoiding online scams while learning Google Docs skills