Six Ways to Stay Safe Online
The internet is a wonderful place, with, quite literally, something for everyone. From entertainment to grocery shopping, from learning a new language to dating, from playing games with strangers across the globe to keeping in touch with friends and family, the online world is wonderful and varied. If you can think of it, it is likely to exist somewhere in the ether.
With the leaps and bounds seen in technology, the world wide web has grown exponentially, and there are currently over 4.5 billion unique users who access the internet daily, and there are close to 2 billion websites (though only around 200 million of these are active). This is a far cry from the one website in 1991!
This growth has been hugely beneficial to individuals and businesses alike, creating an easy to access platform to provide goods and services; nowadays, a business without an online presence might as well not exist! However, with this free-flowing information, and potential to make money at every turn, the online world has also provided a platform for the less scrupulous members of society. Internet users must take certain precautions to ensure they don’t compromise their data or fall for common (and not-so-common) internet scams. There are whole industries set up to scam internet users, from basic scams to fully fledged operations to harvest mass amounts of data. It is estimated that 70,000 websites are hacked on a daily basis.
How to stay safe online
- Look for the padlock symbol in the address line
The little padlock symbol in the URL indicates that there is a secure connection between the browser and the server on which the site is hosted. There is a level of encryption as well as a safety certificate. Users can also see that a site is secure by the ‘s’ in the ‘https’ section of the URL. Legitimate and reputable sites will have these features, including many popular gaming sites that have been growing in popularity.
One of the most popular online poker sites, 888Poker has ensured that they use top of the range security and encryption to ensure the safety of their customers and has even created mac poker, specifically designed to work with the different settings and features available to mac users.
- Do your research before clicking links
Many businesses and individuals will send out links in their emails as part of their normal day to day business. Before clicking on the links there are several easy checks that can be done to ensure the links are safe.
- For an individual, if the email does not seem like normal behaviour, or the email looks odd, check with them first before clicking on anything. It may be that their account has been compromised.
- If receiving a link from a business, there are a couple of ways to be safe:
- Hover over the email address to check if it is legitimate. Scammers will often disguise their display name to make it look legitimate but hovering over it will show what it really is.
- Navigating to the website and logging into your account through there without using the link.
- Choose strong passwords
Passwords are one of the safest ways to keep accounts and personal details secure. Passwords should NEVER be shared and should be unique to every account. Ideally, they should contain a combination of random letters, numbers, and special characters, and though convenient, do not allow websites and apps to save your password. There are also two-step verification apps that can be used to ensure an additional layer of protection, as well as a range of other tips that can help keep your accounts secure.
- Update, update, update!
Make sure your software is always up to date; this will ensure that you are always running the most secure version possible of any operating system, app, or browser. It is wise to automate this process to ensure it happens without taking any input from you, making it easy and painless. The only thing needed will be the occasional restart to make sure the updates are applied! The same goes for anti-virus, which will detect and remove and malware or spyware, further protecting your devices and data.
- Be careful what you post
Anything that goes online will be out there forever. Do not post anything that you would not want your parents or future employer to see. Many people have been caught out by posting inappropriate or controversial photos and comments which years down the line have impacted their lives. Additionally, by posting intimate details people often inadvertently disclose far more than they mean to. A seemingly innocent post about their old childhood home, or an old pet can often be used by hackers to gain access to accounts (often security questions are fairly basic, like first pets name, or mother’s maiden name).
- Privacy settings
Ever noticed that you may be browsing for garden furniture on one site, and then log into another and all the adverts are for garden furniture? Those are the cookies that are placed on your computer that track your browsing habits and feed a huge amount of information to marketers. Pretty much all your information can be tracked in this way, and for the most part it can be equal parts annoying and slightly creeps. However, by having all this information about you, companies can sell on your information to third parties, some of which may not be so subtle. You can take control over what information you share with websites, choosing the cookie settings, as well as increasing privacy on social media like Facebook and Twitter. You can also use private browsing modes when accessing the internet (often called incognito) to automatically delete cookies, and clear your cache on a regular basis.