How To Stop Taking Your Online Safety For Granted

Most of us know that safety is important in all areas of life. It’s why we look both ways before crossing the road, while we keep our doors and windows locked when we leave the house and during the night, and it’s also why we try to keep observant of public areas when we’re in them.

However, it’s also important to consider our virtual lives and their safety, too. This is increasingly important because many of us manage a great deal of life matters using the internet. Odds are, you use digital banking services relatively often, and you may have some information about you online, such as through your social media pages.

online safety tips

For this reason, it can be quite easy to take a somewhat lax approach to online safety. After all, a good deal of it is automated. We don’t expect social media companies to see the data they have on us stolen (at least not while they’re in the business of selling it to advertisers), and many operating systems, like Windows and iOS, have regular cybersecurity updates and antivirus catching methods we rarely have to think about.

But that doesn’t mean these threats are non-existent. Quite the opposite, in fact. But while many articles about cybersecurity, particular about business threats, seem to conjure images of the pale-skinned, chain-smoking hacker collective looking for any way to steal your data, the risks and threats are more and more diverse.

Your Personal Data
Your personal data, as is obvious, should remain personal. Now there’s no issue with agreeing to the social media terms of services should you deem them acceptable, and putting them out there, such as your name or job. But the truth is that if you put information online, and images of yourself, your family, your home, and your job, it’s important to make sure your profiles are private.

You can do this with many social media pages, and on those you would rather leave open (such as Instagram and Twitter), make sure to keep posted information yourself as limited or unidentifiable as possible. In some cases, thefts have occurred because of co-ordination with social media posts; and often this targets influencers and celebrities also.

Good Internet Habits
Because viruses rarely take the headlines as they used to, it’s easy to think they’re somewhat outdated or not even present. Of course, that’s not true, as this instructional source proves.

Healthy internet habits means staying away from sites without security certificates (your browser should notify you of these) being careful where you input your card information, never downloading strange files (and certainly not executables), can make a big difference in how less exposed you are to these software threats.

One of the most common ways to contract these harmful programs is through spoof sites, adult content websites that tend to offer much less security, gambling pages and popups, as well as sites designed for pirating content, like torrent sites. As such, it’s good practice to veer away from all of these, and be mindful of their risks.

Assume Everything You Put Online Is There Forever
You can never really have 100% security over every single online account and platform you use. For example, if you upload a picture of your niece and nephew on social media, even if you have a private account, can you really trust that absolutely no one on your follower list may save and spread it?

This isn’t to make you feel fearful, but it is wise to consider just who is allowed to follow you, what information you volunteer, and why. For example, Facebook’s bio section gives users the chance to input so much information about themselves, such as their birthday, place of work, the location in which they live, the timeline of their activities, what music they’re listening to right now, and of course the most worrying feature - the ‘check-in’ feature.

Think of a potential thief viewing your profile. If they know you’re not at your house, if there are pictures of your front door and if they know the area in which you live, the chance of them trying to intrude rises. This can and does happen. So, reviewing your profile and making sure it’s never giving away anything you would be happy to tell a random member of the public is important.

Also - assume everything you put online is there forever. Does this mean you shouldn’t be able to share moments of privacy and intimacy with a trusted partner? Not at all. No judgement should ever be laid upon you. But you do deserve to know the risks involved, which will always remain.

Make Sure Extra Account Protections Are Enabled
In many cases, companies allow their user accounts to be further secured by two-factor or even multi-factor authentication. Let’s say that someone is able to find your email address and the password used on your account.

This may mean that your account is compromised, right? Well, not if you have this extra protection in place. In it, you may have a specific app that provides a secondary code on a rotating basis, which will allow final access to the account. In some cases an SMS or backup code delivered to you as you put this in place can add that account access, but the foremost option is by far the most secure.

Just remember that @Jack - Twitter’s prior CEO, has had his account accessed in the past. So don’t think that this will never happen to you. It can, and in some cases, especially if you have any online profile, it will.

A Conversation About Passwords
It’s good to make sure the passwords you use are secure, and ideally, that you change them at least annually, especially if you have an account access attempt made against you.

But passwords can be hard to remember, especially with how many online accounts many of us have. Odds are, you may have accounts with Google, Apple, your phone provider, your bank, your social media companies, Amazon, many other fashion stores, streaming services like Netflix, gaming platform providers like Xbox, Playstation or Steam, grocery stores… you get our point.

Now imagine if you used the same password for all of those. You most likely use the same email address. All of a sudden, one successful attempt at finding or uncovering your password is now a means of overtaking your entire digital life before you even know what’s going on.

This is why, more and more, platforms encourage you to make passwords with a special character, numbers, and different capital characters. So instead of ‘acoolpassword123,’ it’s wiser to use ‘@CoolPa55word1010’ - this is equally memorable but much more secure.

However, you could also change them from service to service - so you may add the initials of the service that account is for at the beginning and the end, so a secure password for eBay might be ‘E@CoolPa55word1010B’ - allowing you to keep a better format you can still remember. Alternatively, Edward Snowden, famous NSA whistleblower, suggests passwords with easy to remember phrases are much better - his example being ‘MargeretThatcherIs110%Sexy’ - a hacker will no doubt feel stressed out typing that even if they found your password.

In other words, make them complex and varied. Try to alternate them. And if you use a separate keychain app to save all of your passwords, please make sure that’s secured with 2FA and a different password also. It will make a big difference.

With this advice, we hope you can stop taking your online safety for granted, as foresight is always better than learning from error.

*Collaborative post