The internet can be a scary place. Who knows how many billion people use it daily and how many have access to your information? After all, how many times a day do we click the ‘allow all cookies’ button on a website? Here are just a few ways that you can feel safer out there.
1. Passwords are Key
The phrase ‘create a strong password’ is used all the time. But, what does it actually mean? And why is it so important?
Strong and unique passwords are essential in ensuring all your information remains safe and secure online. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a password as ‘a selected word or phrase securing admission’, precisely what you need. Don’t just use your birthday or an important anniversary; come up with something whacky and original to ‘secure admission’ on your information. Try not to tell anyone your password; the fewer people that know it, the fewer risks there are.
Most of the time, the people who would try and access your information are those we know, friends, family members, etc., and although it isn’t advisable to advertise your passwords too much, these individuals are the main threat. What you really need to be careful about are hackers. Having solid passwords will mitigate the chances of hackers being able to access your information. As well as this, try to have different passwords for different websites. The same passwords increase your chances of being hacked on multiple occasions or platforms.
2. Create Secure Files and Documents
One of the easiest ways to ensure your documents are protected is to take some extra time securing them. Ensure you store your files in a secure location online and physically. This may mean adding password protection, as previously mentioned, or you may actively choose a safer type of document. For example, a non editable pdf allows only you to access your record. No unauthorized changes are permitted.
Similarly, other documents, such as Word documents or Excel spreadsheets, can be fitted with encryption to ensure no further unauthorized access. By doing this simple step and checking that your files are secure, you confirm that only you or trusted individuals can access your information. After all, with the internet being so widely used, you wouldn’t want your documents to fall into the wrong hands.
3. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Effectively, VPNs add an extra layer of protection to your internet connection. They do this through encryption, which stops people from accessing your files. It’s not guaranteed that they will be stopped, but it makes organizations such as the government, hackers, or other strangers have a much harder job if they want access.
One of the prominent locations where your security is jeopardized is in public locations when your devices connect to public Wi-Fi. Using a VPN in public, once again, adds this extra layer of protection. You can think of it almost like a plaster!
4. Have Two-Factor Authentication when Possible
You can think of two-factor authentication as a panic alert button; it is there to force people to be stopped if they shouldn’t be accessing your information. Two-factor authentication goes beyond just a password; it requires something extra from the person trying to access the files or site. Typically, this may be in the form of asking a personal question (‘Where was your first job?’), asking for verification on another device (perhaps your phone) or using a feature of yours (such as your thumbprint or face recognition). This extra step reinforces the protection of your private information.
5. Be Aware of Scams
Scam texts or emails are one of the main ways unauthorized individuals can access your information. They are surprisingly easy to mistake for honest things, and these hackers are clever. Make sure you stay informed on some of the latest scams going around. They tend to come in waves. Equally, educate yourself about some of the critical features of a scam, e.g. the email address having random numbers included or a prominent link you are pressured to follow. A lot of scams do follow a similar pattern. That may be similar wording, a similar time of day the scam is sent out or even a similar fake or copied company.
Never share your personal information with anybody you don’t trust and if possible avoid sharing too much personal information on the internet at all. Most personal information should be communicated in person or protected with an extra layer of coding or an extra password.
Staying entirely safe on the internet is almost impossible and after reading this you’re perhaps even coming away a bit scared! However, follow these simple steps to ensure that you are giving yourself and your devices the best possible protection.