How to stay safe online?
Some of the best online safety tips include setting a strong password, a good secret question, guarding your personal details and photos, using 2FA or two-factor authentication for stronger security, identifying scammers and their techniques, not clicking on unknown links, and more. Read on to find out more.
Most of us have faced at least one of these issues – social media account or email account hacking, withdrawal of money from our bank account by someone else, morphed photos doing rounds of the Internet, among others.
While some of these issues may be due to data breaches, many of them result from surfing the Internet without taking a few basic precautions.
The internet is an amazing place but can quickly turn into a nightmare if we aren’t careful. Given below are a few tips to secure your online presence.
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First and foremost, never write down or give your password to anyone. It is all that stands between all your personal data and the internet. Weak passwords are easy to guess if someone knows you well, so setting a strong password is of the utmost importance. Following are a few tips.
Avoid using simple passwords. A password should be at least 8 characters long and should contain numbers and special characters to be able to withstand a Brute Force attack ( a hacking attempt using software that tries all familiar words and character combinations to discover the password).
Do not keep words from a dictionary, names, phone numbers, birth dates, or any other personal information, as a password. When you chose a new password, make sure that it is not related to your previous password. Basically, passwords like this can be easily guessed.
- Think of a song or poem that you can easily remember – For Eg: Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean.
- Now take a line from it, and from that, the first eight words – “She told me her name was Billie Jean”
- Now take the first character of those eight words – “She told me her name was Billie Jean”, which comes to STMHNWBJ. Simple enough?
- Now let us make it stronger. Add a number or special character after every 2 characters in the new word. “ST3MH$NW5BJ”. And presto, what we have now is a strong password that can give a brute force attack a tough time.
- Please don’t use a song or poem that everyone knows is your favourite.
If this is tedious, then just use password-generating software to make a password for you. But do write it down safely somewhere till you can remember it without reading.
There is also the option to use password managers. These software or apps can store your password safely and they make it easy to organise your passwords as well.
There is a second layer of security in most websites that’s called two-factor authentication or 2FA. In short, aside from your username and password, some websites also ask for a 2FA code, which is generated randomly on the 2FA software that you use. This code changes every few seconds and can’t be guessed. This makes access to your account on these websites very safe.
If you keep a secret question with an obvious or known answer, then it’s useless to keep a strong password. Do not keep secret questions relating to personal details. Keep something that only you would know. For example, the question could be related to your deepest secret. This way you can be sure that no one else knows the answer.
Try not to reveal too much personal information online, especially your phone number and address. Keep your real name off the internet if possible, you don’t want to find out one day that someone you met online has started stalking you.
Create another email ID that you can use to register on other websites. This way you can keep your personal communication email ID safe.
In case you feel a particular website is shady, use one of the fake-email-generating websites out there to create a fake email ID for you that you can safely use without giving out your real identity.
Be very careful while uploading photos to social media. Only give access to your albums to people you know. Use the privacy features on social networking sites to the fullest. Remember, you don’t want your personal photographs to end up on a fake account or used for identity theft.
It is easy to do a reverse image search online, which will throw up more details about you. Hence, it is important to control access to your photographs.
If you do need to use a profile picture, use an avatar. In internet terms, an avatar is a graphic representation of how you look.
Always approach people you meet online with caution. People often fall for smooth talkers online, who quite often turn out to have ulterior motives, with the main one being to scam you.
Ask questions and, if possible, verify their identity from another source. If you do intend to meet an online person in real-time, be sure it’s in a public place and that you go with a friend.
When downloading software, always use a search engine to find out about it first. It is quite possible that the software may also carry malicious code that steals your personal information from your computer, which could include bank login details.
Always use protective software like antivirus, antimalware, antispyware, firewall, etc., on your PC. There are plenty of reputed software companies that band all these together in one product.
Do not click on links in your email without checking them. At some point, you might receive an email that seems like it’s from your bank and has a link that redirects you to your bank’s website, where it asks you to enter your password. DON’T DO IT. The bank’s website might look real but it could be fake, and the link is the only way to determine its authenticity.
In the link, check the spelling of the website, as fake websites often have similar sounding names to deceive us. Let’s take a hypothetical bank, Blue Bank, as an example. If the genuine bank’s website name is something like bluebank.com, the fake link might be disguised to look like bluebannk.com — notice the wrong spelling? When you enter your password on a fake website, your password is directly sent to the fraudster.
Sometimes the links are not direct links and may be shortened by using other websites. In such cases, it is difficult to determine if the link could be a spam one.
But there is a way to find out if a link is safe or not by getting them checked on websites like safeweb.norton.com or safeweb.norton.com.
Nobody from any part of the world wants to send you money and neither did you win a lottery for which you must deposit some money first.
Delete such emails immediately that talk about you being the lucky one receiving millions of dollars and pounds from abroad. You will end up sending thousands to the fraudsters who will demand money as a processing fee to claim your prize money.
You can also use websites like trustpilot.com to see if a website is genuine or not. Here, people rate and review websites, so you will know if it is a legitimate business or not.
Your online safety is first your responsibility, and if you these small steps, you can have an enjoyable experience online.
If you feel that someone could benefit from this information, share this link with them. Share it online too, staying safe is everyone’s right.
If you would like to know what the best software, apps, websites and tricks for online safety are, click here.