Simple Ways to Stay Safe Online

If you’re reading this, you’re safe and online.

Maybe you’re relaxing on the couch with your laptop from the comfort of home. Or maybe you’re reading this on a phone during a lunch break (or at your desk – we won’t tell!).

But being safe and online is not the same thing as being safe online

There’s a lot more to internet safety than choosing one strong universal password. Here are some ways to keep you and your family safe online.

Choose Strong Passwords

That being said – speaking of passwords, how strong is yours? Do you have different ones for every account?  Internet hackers know the kinds of bad passwords everyday people like to use, and that’s why it’s essential you put some effort into devising strong ones.

Strong passwords are longer, more “random,” and use combinations of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Make sure to change your passwords frequently, as strong passwords don’t last forever.

There are also a wide variety of great password managers you can utilize (though most do require purchase).

Use an Anti-Virus Software

Anti-virus protection software is an important way to ensure data security online. Anti-virus software protects your machine from malware and is a vital part of any smart user’s safety toolbox.

There’s a lot of solutions to choose from, but be aware that there are also fake anti-virus softwares that are viruses themselves.

Here’s a list of some of the best legit ones.

Check Your Digital Footprint

Keeping tabs on what’s in the public record is a smart way to understand your digital footprint and see what strangers – friendly, or not-so-friendly – can find out about you.

While a simple Google search will give you some idea, we recommend using a dedicated people search engine, which allows you to search yourself by name, home address, phone number or email address. A reverse email search is particularly useful, as it will look to bring up social media profiles you may have created and show what’s public. From there you can take steps to adjust your privacy settings on social media.

Browse with a VPN

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are becoming more popular for a good reason: they allow you to browse the web securely without the threat of advertisers, or anyone else for that matter, stealing your information.

VPNs generally cost a few bucks a month, but are well worth it for anyone wanting to browse privately. Here are a list of some good ones to consider.

Install a Parental Control App

Most children spend hours online or in front of screens every day chatting, playing games, and texting. Do you know what they’re looking at, or who they’re talking to?

There are a variety of parental control apps on the market to help you monitor your child’s activity online and see who they’re texting. Apps like FamilyTime not only allow you to limit screen-time, but will give you browser history, phone/text logs, app usage and more. You deserve to know

Don’t Open or Respond to Suspicious Emails

Have you ever received an email from a mystery sender asking you to click a link, or respond to claim a prize? Dude, you (almost) just got  “Phish’d”!

Phishing (such as the infamous 419 scam originating from Nigeria) is by far one of the most common, and costly, forms of cyber crime. Phishing fraud involves a scammer attempting to gain access to sensitive information (social security number, credit card information, passwords) via fraudulent emails or text messages.

There’s an endless variety of online scams out there, from phishing emails (messages that redirect you to a fraudulent website in hopes of getting you to enter your data), to fake bitcoin exchanges, to “catfish” romance scams on dating sites. Though their methods may vary, online fraudsters are essentially all confidence tricksters: they want to secure your trust and have you let your guard down. You should never click suspicious links or respond to emails from strange domains. If you don’t recognize the sender, toss it in the trash. If you do recognize the sender, but the email seems out of character for your contact, toss it and let the sender know they may have been hacked. Don’t share personal information before ensuring you know the person asking for it.

If you want to know who’s emailing or calling you, do a background search to verify their identity. If you don’t recognize them, back away.

Secure Your Browser

Whether you’re using Firefox or Chrome, periodically take a look at your browser settings to see what’s checked (or unchecked).

It’s a smart idea to be careful with installing plugins or extensions, as these can be forms of third-party viruses that track your data or barrage you with pop-ups. Here’s a handy guide for securing your browser so that you’re browsing safely.

Keep Tabs on Recent Data Hacks

Unfortunately with big data comes big responsibility, and many corporate giants have failed the test. Massive data breaches are constantly happening and putting millions of consumers at risk.

The helpful and delightfully-monikered site Have I Been Pwned? Is a helpful guide for finding out how safe your info is in the wake of the latest data hack. 

All of the above are simple and easy ways to stay safe online, but it doesn’t end there. For more information on browsing safely and securely, check out this helpful article from Time. A few simple rules go a long way towards making you, your family (and your wallet), safer.