The Internet is an amazing place where we can connect, learn new things, and visit places we have only ever dreamed of. At the same time, we often hear that the internet can be a dangerous place. So, what are the risks to being online? And how can internet users protect themselves?
It is important to remember that no single tool can protect you from online threats. It is more important be aware of what threats are out there and to develop strategic behaviours to counter potential dangers. Remember, threats may change depending on where you are and how you are using the internet.
Our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) help get the process of online safety started by first helping us assess our personal online threat model. EFF asks five questions to help internet users assess dangers specific to individual users, because we all use the internet in different ways, from different locations, and may have different assets to protect.
(1) What do you want to protect?
(2) Who do you want to protect it from?
(3) How likely is it that you will need to protect it?
(4) How bad are the consequences if you fail?
(5) How much trouble are you willing to go through in order to try to prevent those?
Here are a few general online safety tips that everyone should follow.
1. Use strong passwords.
Easy and obvious passwords take mere seconds to crack. Create a password that is complex, but something that you will remember. Here are a few tips for creating a strong password.
2. Don’t open attachments from unknown senders.
Attachments may contain harmful viruses, worms, and Trojans. The most dangerous files are those with .exe extensions, but many different files could also be dangerous.
Sometimes, documents can be made to appear as though they are sent from someone you know, like the Google Doc phishing scam that hit millions of Google users in May 2017.
3. Visit trusted websites and don’t click on unknown links.
Visiting unknown websites and clicking on links could infect your computer with malware, subject you to a phishing scam, or take you to an unwanted website.
There are a few tricks to analyzing sites before you visit them. If you are still uncertain about the website, it is best to not take the chance.
4. Don’t share personal information or banking information with non-trusted sources.
Be mindful of what information you share online. Sharing personal information could lead to identity or financial theft. It is also important to remember that obscene comments or embarrassing photos can stay online for years and come back to haunt us.
Avoid over-sharing personally identifying information on social networks. If you are doing banking or making transactions online, do so only through trusted sources. Here are a few general tips for what to share and what not to share online.
5. Avoid downloading non-trustworthy apps and software
Sometimes free programs and apps have spyware, adware, or malicious code. Before downloading freeware and apps, do some research in advance. Stick to trusted app stores. Here are a few other tricks to minimize risk.
6. Use reliable anti-virus program
As a final defense, be sure to install a trusted anti-virus software. It is easy to take a wrong turn online, and a good anti-virus software will catch any attacks that may threaten your computer. There are even a few free anti-virus options out there. Be sure to choose the one that is right for your particular needs.
Now that you are aware of some basic safe practices, our friends at Gizmodo have a list of the top 10 most dangerous things you can do online. Avoid searching for questionable content and be sure to review your privacy settings on social media and other websites where your personal information is available.
In summary, you can best protect yourself from online threats by first gaining an understanding of what threats are out there and which are most specific to you at any given time and place.
Stick with trusted websites, links and attachments. Research them or test before opening. Don’t put any information online that you wouldn’t share with a stranger. As a final precaution, use a reliable anti-virus program.
Stay safe out there