We all care about our online security. But the fact of the matter is that there is one person you might really need to protect yourself from – yourself.
This is a bit like this: A friend on Facebook said he was recently hacked because he clicked a link clicked that he shouldn’t have clicked. After that, something undesirable was posted on his profile.
This friend was not hacked but instead triggered a series of actions that caused the problem.
A cybercriminal doesn’t have to be a master hacker if you yourself disregard basic security rules for your online security. Prevention is better than cure, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to take a few simple safety precautions. So we’ve put together the ultimate guide to help you keep yourself safe online.
Online Safety: A 12-Step Guide
1. Passwords are really important
Imagine having only one key to your house, car, workplace and bank account. And now imagine if you lost that key. Unsettling thought, isn’t it?
Using a single password for all of your accounts is just as risky. Always use a complex and unique password for each account to avoid a domino effect if a password is compromised. Consider setting up two-factor authentication to protect your accounts with one more layer of control.
2. Think first, then connect
Surfing the Internet via public WLAN networks carries risks such as man-in-the-middle attacks or digital eavesdropping attacks to intercept data. Any personal information you share on an unsecured or vulnerable WiFi network may be visible to strangers. By using a VPN when you go online over a public Wi-Fi network, you can ensure that your data remains protected and encrypted. Strangers then have no way of stealing your data.
3. Protect your device – anytime
One of the easiest options is to use an antivirus solution . Perhaps you think that is superfluous? But if you go wrong just one time, it can have serious consequences. By protecting your devices with antivirus software, you can rest assured that your device is nowhere near as vulnerable to spyware, ransomware, adware, and other common cyber threats.
4. Ignore any suspicious messages or attachments
Sending malicious links or attachments to potential victims is one of the oldest cybercriminals scams. If you receive a message or email with a suspicious link or attachment, simply delete or ignore such content. Even if the sender is someone you know, make sure the message is real before you click on it.
5. Change the passwords on all Internet-connected devices
Whenever you use a new WiFi router, a new smart home device, or any other device connected to the internet, you should change the default password.
This closes a potential backdoor for unwanted visitors who could try to gain access to your network or online connected devices. Password protect all of your devices so that smart technology devices cannot be used against you.
6. Use your common sense
One of the most common vulnerabilities exploited by cyber criminals is the victim. This can take the form of phishing, which uses social engineering to steal data such as passwords, logins or sensitive user data.
User errors or negligence can sometimes also be the cause. So be vigilant. If something looks suspicious or raises the alarm bells, trust your common sense or seek advice from a reliable source.
7. Update your software
Always allow automatic updates on your smartphone or computer. Updates often contain security patches that fix software vulnerabilities that could be exploited by cyber criminals. As soon as an update is available, you should install it so that cyber criminals cannot exploit these security holes.
8. Change your online privacy settings
Have you carefully checked the privacy settings of any online service or app that you use? Whenever you use a new online service or app, the first thing to do is to check your privacy settings.
Do you know who your profile is shown to, which data is visible to everyone and whether your provider can share your personal data with third parties? Never use the default privacy settings of apps, devices or services.
9. Choose a secure lock code for your smartphone
Your smartphone is a real treasure trove for sensitive data that shouldn’t fall into the wrong hands. That’s why you need a secure lock code to prevent anyone from gaining access to it. While the lock code „000000” may seem sufficient to some of your friends, it should not be enough for you. Pick a code that is hard to guess and avoid the obvious things like your date of birth.
10. Be careful with cookies
Web browser cookies store information about your browsing history on your device and can also save your passwords or settings for specific websites, which can be useful. But they also leave a trace that can be followed by the operator of a website. This makes it easy to see which websites you have visited and what actions you have taken. Therefore, you should consider deleting cookies for certain websites or adjusting your privacy settings so that cookies are not saved.
11. Don’t reveal too much about yourself
Leaving a lot of personal information online can have a direct impact on your privacy and security in the real world.
Perhaps changing your location settings is a good idea. Do you really need to include your exact location every time you post something on social media? Revealing too much information about yourself on social media can also take the form of sensitive or embarrassing photos or status updates, which can develop a life of their own after being published online.
So before you hit the „Submit” button the next time, you should think twice about whether you really want your grandmother or a future employer to see this post.
12. Make use of your data protection rights
Your rights include the right to have your personal data deleted. You can request the provider of an online service that you no longer use to delete all personal data that relate directly to you, such as your date of birth, your bank details or your credit card number.
This may seem like an exaggeration, but covering up the traces you’ve left on the internet will increase your security online.