Most of us use the internet on a daily basis without any problems. We log on, take care of business, fight temptation for a moment and make an impulse purchase or other financial transactions, log off, and that’s the end of it… right? Is keeping your information private on the internet really a concern?
Your information is still at risk, whether you’re online or not. And it seems like there are more personal information breaches happening all the time. June has been designated Internet Safety Month. But, you can apply these safety tips to your web surfing the rest of the year.
Think of the Children and Keep your Information Private
This past year, kids have been online more than ever, due to lockdown, distance learning, and social media. Unfortunately, where kids go, internet predators follow. In fact, it’s estimated that 1 in 5 children online will be sexually solicited. (1)
Luckily, there are a few things you can do about it.
The first — and most obvious — thing you should do is set parental controls on any device your child may use, whether that’s a computer or a smartphone, so that nothing can be done without your approval. That means changing passwords, downloading apps… nothing.
Also, make sure your child knows not to post any personal information — photos, phone number, email, address — online. That’s out there for good.
Talk to your children and make sure they understand internet safety precautions. Don’t let them browse online alone. When possible, have them use the family computer or use their smartphone in your presence. If you’re really worried, check online browsing history.
Hold On, You’re Not Safe Either
Although you may not be facing the same online threats, you’re not exactly walking down the sunny side of the super highway. There are other kinds of predators out there, and one of them may have targeted you.
One of the first things you should do is go to your email profile and click on My Account. This will take you to a screen with several options, one of which is Security. Click that, and it will take you to a link that allows you to see your log-in history.
That may not sound important until you check to see how many failed — or possibly successful — attempts to log into your account from an unfamiliar device are there. Sometimes you’ll see an attempted automatic sync. A good idea would be to change your password. Your unwanted visitors may be getting close to cracking it, so there’s no point making it any easier for them.
And never use the same password for multiple sites. That is one of the biggest concerns with keeping your information private on the internet.
Update Now? Remind Me Later
No. Update now. There are always new software updates and often they have security updates. There are security updates because your software provider discovered a weakness that lets the bad guys in. Update. Close that door. Or Window.
Make sure the software you’re running is the most recent version, and always update your antivirus and malware protections.
Also, be careful if you’re downloading a movie or music, and think twice before you click on that pop-up ad, because any of them could let malware in, giving a hacker access to your personal information. Yes, keeping your information private on the internet should always be a priority.
But Wait, There’s More to Keeping Your Information Private
1) Keep your privacy settings on. Advertisers love to know all about you, but so do hackers. Sometimes these settings aren’t easy to find, but make the effort, and make sure you keep them enabled. Also, make sure your firewall is activated.
2) Those Facebook quizzes to find out which Golden Girl you’d be are fun, but they’re not always harmless. Many of them are data-mining you. And it’s Blanche. The Golden Girl you’d be is always Blanche.
3) If you’re using public Wi-Fi, make sure you have a secure VPN connection, and even then, refrain from doing any financial transactions until you’re on your home computer. You could be sharing your bank or credit card information with people who will gladly exploit that information. (2)
And when you’re doing online banking, log out of your account, don’t just close the window.
4) If you’re making an online purchase, make sure the site is safe. There are a few ways to do this. Popular web browsers will alert you to the potential of danger and ask you if you want to continue. You probably don’t.
Be alert to spoofed websites. They look like the site you want, but there can be slight differences.
Don’t just click a link, especially if you receive one in your email. Hover your mouse over it and see how long the URL is. If it’s overly long, it’s probably spam, or worse. (3)
When possible, just type the URL into your browser. And make sure the site is HTTPS, not HTTP, or has a padlock in the address bar. This icon means it’s a safe site.
Also, when making an online purchase, use your credit card instead of your debit or bank information. Although it sounds counterintuitive to put more debt on a card — especially one that comes with interest — it’s actually safer.
If there’s a problem, the credit card company is there to handle it. If your bank account is hacked, you could lose money and not be aware of it for several days.
But if you do use your bank information for online buys, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a separate account with enough money to handle purchases, but not your whole life’s savings.
5) When possible, try to delete your personal information from public sites. Data brokers will match that against your public records. Check sites for your name. There are probably several, and you may need to invest in software to scan for — and wipe — your information.
Remember, trying keep your information private on the internet is a goal everyone should aspire to achieve.
1. Book, Lauren. “Internet Safety Month Targets Keeping Children Safe Online.” Lauren’s Kids, Lauren’s Kids, 22 June 2021, laurenskids.org/internet-safety-month-targets-keeping-children-safe-online/.
2. Kaspersky. “Top 10 Internet Safety Rules & What Not to Do Online.” Usa.kaspersky.com, 13 Jan. 2021, usa.kaspersky.com/resource-center/preemptive-safety/top-10-internet-safety-rules-and-what-not-to-do-online.
3. Long, Emily. “Is This Website Safe? 7 Ways to Check.” BeenVerified.com, 1 July 2020, www.beenverified.com/safety/how-to-check-if-a-website-is-safe/.