Almost 36.5 percent of internet users feel that they have been cyberbullied at least once in their lifetime – and this data is restricted to individual bullying only. Around 1001 data breach reports have surfaced only in 2020 in the United States and the 2021 cybersecurity trends show that the stats of 2021 will be much higher.
In 2015, a candidate running for public office came under a lot of fire after his opponents found his social media images that were sexually explicit in nature and suggested past drug use. While he did win the seat after explaining his side of the story, your takeaway from this story should be that your online activities can make or break your career and future.
Not only this, your internet habits can expose you to identity theft crimes, financial scams, and even physical harm. If you want to understand the extent of harm these online crimes can lead you to, you should watch the new Netflix sensation, ‘ClickBait.’ After finishing this miniseries, you might just want to leave the online world completely, however, that is not my intention and all I want is for you to be aware of the negativities that this online world spheres.
As such, I have formulated a list of the top 6 internet safety rules that will help you secure your online persona to a great degree.
1.Enable your privacy and security settings
When was the last time you read the Terms and Conditions of apps and websites? You are on thin ice if you do not even remember the last time. While it is very convenient to accept the T&Cs without reading, it can be a lot dangerous as well. Most websites, including Facebook and WhatsApp, share personal data like your preferences, likes, dislikes, etc. with third-party marketing companies. And while this is legally in terms of your agreement with the website, cybercriminals can also get their hands on your information if you are not careful.
But this does not mean that you should delete all your online presence, all this implies is to be smart about it. All mobile operating systems and web browsers have settings that can help you protect your online privacy. Almost all prominent websites (like Facebook) offer privacy-enhancing settings. These settings can be hard to find sometimes but if you make the effort once, you can enjoy the fruits of privacy for a long time. On this account, make sure to enable these advanced privacy settings and keep them this way.
Nobody deliberately goes around walking in a dangerous neighborhood all alone and so understand that the safety concepts are the same for the online community as well. Since everything online has matured, the tactics employed by cybercriminals have also matured. Cybercriminals use very authentic-seeming content as clickbait now. They have become the masters of mind and share controversial, click-worthy content to tempt internet users to land on their page. Once you click such malicious links or attachments, cybercriminals can carry out whatever criminal activity they intended to. You would understand this in a much better sense if you have watched Michael from ‘The Office’ getting scammed frequently for helping Nigerian royals.
In order to remain safe from these frauds, make sure that you are mindful when using the internet. More importantly, do not go clicking around links and attachments that seem unauthentic or land in your inbox from unknown addresses.
3.Use secure internet connection only
This goes without saying but I would still say it: make sure to always use an internet connection that guarantees your online privacy and security.
Imagine going for a stroll and finding a nice, cozy coffee place and so you take a break for a while. It is a given that you would not sit there being idle and so while sipping your coffee, you connect with the public Wi-Fi available at the coffee shop. Well, this seems like such a good setting but is it? Connecting with an open, public Wi-Fi, you have put all your online records, financial accounts, and confidential documents at risk.
I know that there are some desperate times when we are out of data and need to get online earnestly, and for such times we should always use a VPN service. A VPN makes sure that none of your data is preyed on and you stay secure through and through on any network. However, the better approach is to subscribe to an internet provider that offers secure hotspots – for example, if you look into Spectrum packages, you will find out the various, affordable internet plans offering free access to nationwide hotspots in addition to the high internet speeds and no data caps.
4.Be cautious when downloading files
One of the top motives of hackers is to trick you into downloading viruses or malware to steal your private and confidential data. You might think that you are smart and so would not fall to such tricks but you must know that some of these cybercriminals have only one job and that is to disguise their malicious software in a way that people fall for them. So, what can you do? Do not download anything that seems suspicious or does not come from a website you trust.
5.Create strong passwords
This is by far the easiest but most overlooked rule of internet safety. Passwords are the gateway to your personalized accounts and you should always create strong, unique passwords for all websites you log in to.
- Do not keep the same password for all your accounts – if a hacker gets into one account, the same password ensures illegal entry to all other accounts too.
- Choose an alphanumeric, strong password that is not easily guessable – do not use passwords like ‘000000,’ ‘123456,’ or simply ‘password.’
- Keep a password that cannot be reverse-engineered – this means that your password should not be something that can be traced back to you like your pet’s name or date of birth.
6.Understand the purpose of each social media website
A 2019 Pew Research Center study shows that about 72 percent of U.S. adults use social media applications. This number was only 5 percent in 2005 when Facebook went live.
In just 20 odd years, we have seen an evolution of social media – six degrees enjoyed its immense popularity until MySpace came into the scene in 2003. After Facebook was launched, we observed a power struggle between these two social media sites. Many other social sites also surfaced during that time and almost all the social sites had only one purpose – social interaction. On the other hand, while the basic layering of social media sites will always be social interaction, today, all these sites have different concepts and ideologies. For example, Snapchat is for sharing short-lived videos, photos, drawings, and texts; Instagram allows permanent sharing of photos and videos, and has become a major tool of influencer marketing; LinkedIn is a platform for professionals to feel connected. Every social site has a unique tone and you must understand how to be appropriate on all these platforms. You should know better than using LinkedIn to make friends or Snapchat message your professional acquaintances.