Tips to Keep You Safe While Surfing the Interwebs

Picture 1In recent years, Safer Internet Day (SID) has become a landmark event in the online community. What began as an initiative of the EU SafeBorders project back in 2004 has grown far beyond its geographic zone and is now being celebrated in over 100 countries worldwide. Each year SID aims to raise awareness of evolving online issues, choosing a topic to reflect on current concerns. This year, the focus of the day is “Play your part for a better internet”, proposing that we all have a role to play in internet safety. In honor of Safer Internet Day and today’s focus, we’d like to provide you with some tips to keep you safe while surfing the interwebs.

Password

Interesting ManLet’s start with the simplest way to browse safer; passwords. They are everywhere, and with good reason, but without a strong password you might as well just hand out access to your online accounts. Certain accounts are more important than others and warrant particular attention, for instance your email and banking accounts. If you’ve ever forgotten a password, it’s likely that you’ve had a password reset link sent to your email. Thus, if your email is compromised then so too could many of your other accounts. I don’t think I need to tell you why having a secure password on your bank account is important… Creating a secure password is the first (and simplest) step you can take to browse safer.

A basic rule of thumb to creating a secure password is to have one that is twelve or more characters long, includes upper and lower case letters, numbers, special characters, and does not include any words found in the dictionary. Use mnemonic devices to help you remember you password.

Using the first letter of each word in a phrase, alternating upper and lower case, and replacing letters with special characters can help you to create an easy to remember, strong password like Id@Up8WiDTA$! (I don’t always use passwords but when I do they are strong).

2-Factor Authentication

Picture 3Now your password is strong, but that alone may not be enough. Banks, email providers, and social media sites (just to name a few) employ an option layer of security called two-factor authentication. For this, to gain access to your account you need both a password and a code that is texted to your phone. If you aren’t doing it, go set up 2 factor authentication now.

Once your password is strong and you have two factor authentication set up, you basically have to give your account information away, which happens more often than you think. We’ve all fat fingered a URL (typing Amazon with a “0” instead of a “o” or Twitter spelled “Twiter”) so be extra careful when typing in the web address. Malicious actors will often leverage these common misspellings to steal your account information.

Software, One Choice…..To Update them All

If you’ve followed the steps so far, Picture 2you’re getting pretty safe in your browsing. But when was the last time you updated your software? Most software updates aren’t simply to add additional features but rather to patch vulnerabilities which could put you at risk. While occasionally an update breaks things and reduces functionality temporarily, chances are the bad guys out there have known about the vulnerability for long enough to take advantage of it. You are better off safe than sorry, so be sure to auto-update or at least consistently perform critical updates when they occur.

What About Your Phone?

Remember, your devices should be secured, not just your computer. For example, on our phones, most of us leave access to our accounts turned on (like our email accounts). Picture 4Password protect your phone, keep it up to date, and just like your computer install antivirus software.

Lastly, use the same password recommendations that have been provided on your router and consider setting up a separate guest network (with a secure password as well) to avoid handing out access to the network on which your personal devices are connected. If a guest shares the same network as you, malicious software on their computer can easily wind up on yours.

While seemingly difficult at first, if you follow these measures you will undoubtedly have a safer experience on the internet and in turn make the internet a safer place for those around you.

We hope that these tips are useful to you, and remember practice Safe Internet Use.

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