The internet can be a scary place. It takes courage and strength to survive in a world full of trolls, cyber-bullies, psychos, predators and thieves. The cyberspace is a community and just like any other communities this one is not free from crime.
The good news is that you can protect yourself in cyberspace just like you would in the real world. Here are a few cyberspace self-defence tips to help you be safe in the online:
Subscribe to a computer security service. Even the most basic security programs can help a lot in protecting your computer from viruses, malware and spyware. The best part is that some of the best security services are free. (Avira Free Antivirus, AVG Anti-Virus Free 2012)
Create smart and strong passwords. If your main password is ‘password’ or ‘John1988’ then you are doing it wrong. You are keeping the door opened for cyber-criminals and inviting them in. Make it difficult for hackers to break it. Incorporate capital letters, numbers and special characters. Mix it up and remember to use more than six characters!
Be careful with public WiFis. Public WiFi is convenient but it’s the riskiest. Be wary of what you access whilst connected to a public WiFi: don’t look at your bank statement and don’t access your work email or other important platforms. To be even more secure access secure sites only!
Be smart with emailing. Email is a fantastic way of communication and an awesome business tool. The unfortunate problem with it is that even if you have a good security software on your PC/device you are not 100% protected. Be careful of what links you click even if they seem to be from someone you know! Dangerous emails can look very real and they can mask as places you normally go on (bank, shopping website, etc.). Be careful about what information you sent via email and never send credit card information or identity information (Social Security Number)
Shop safely. When you order from an online store always make sure that the site is using secure technology. Verify that the site is secure by looking if it starts with ‘https’ or if it has a locked padlock symbol at the bottom right of the checkout screen or that there is a statement on the checkout screen stating that the pages are secure with a security technology seller.
Always assess your risk. Just like in real life, knowledge is power! Learn how things work so you can have a better understanding of cyberspace and you will feel more safe and confident in what you do. Last but not least, always assess the situation before you act and if something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.
Pay attention to your children. Think your children are safe online? Think again! Many times situations have shown how easy it is for predators to lure kids on social media. Install and use parental control software that allows you to monitor your children’s activity online.
TMI. It stands for too much information. We’ve covered how you should not share any personal information online but this is another dish. When creating a profile page, most websites will ask for personal information such as home addresses, birthdays, and phone numbers. Be very careful when giving this information as it can be very dangerous and if privacy settings are not set correctly, your information will be made public.
Location, Location, Location. Location-based services can be very dangerous features provided by social networking sites. It exposes your location and whereabouts. The safest thing is to not share your location or geotag yourself or anyone else as it can increase your vulnerability and open you up to being robbed or sexually assaulted.
Teaching your teens how to increase their safety. The best way to protect your children is teaching them 3 important tips to use when on social media:
Don’t give personal/optional information. When creating a profile on a social platform you are asked to fill out your information on the setup page. You don’t have to fill in the optional information! Just fill in the basic information and leave the optional out.
Third level of privacy. There are three levels of privacy settings to choose from for your profile. There is “open to everyone,” “open to friends of friends” and “friends only.” The safest setting to use is the “friends only” setting on all of your privacy choices. This will protect you from sexual predators or other criminals from stealing your photos and using them on porn sites, escort sites, etc.
Accept only people you know. This is one of the most important steps in securing your safety! Accept only people you know, friends and family. This step will protect you from spammers, pedophiles, and other people who use social networking sites to commit crimes.
We all love it and are hooked on it! The internet, and social media platforms are awesome and cool ways to have fun, learn and even communicate.
Just remember to stay safe and most importantly to make sure your children are safe! Learn and teach your children to use their reasoning, be aware, use common sense and trust their instincts when on the internet.