The Internet has proven to be a life-changer for the entire world. While only having been around for 38 years, it has changed how humans communicate, shop, enjoy, and even live their lives. However, like everything else in life, even the Internet has its own dangers. With millions of websites full of stuff on it, the Internet is also kind of a virtual minefield. Online safety is something many folks simply ignore. However, that’s a mistake since there are almost infinite things that can go wrong while you’re online. So whether you’ve just started to think about online safety or have been planning for it, it’s very much possible. We have compiled a list of the most helpful tips and tricks that we believe will help you practice online safety and be more secure in general.
Tips and Tricks to Practice Online Safety
Since online safety is quite an abstract topic, we will be detailing a mix of the most helpful tips and tricks. Some of these tips and tricks will be daily habits you can inculcate while others are a bit more specialized you can try to be even more secure. Use the table below to jump to the tip you feel will help.
Tips and Tricks to Stay Safe Online
1. Keep Your Webcam Covered
If you’ve been on the Internet long enough, you’ve probably seen the photo of Mark Zuckerburg posing at his desk. However, if you notice you will see his laptop in the background with a piece of tape covering his webcam. While you may think the Facebook founder is being paranoid, there’s plenty of good reason to cover your webcam.
Mark Zuckerberg's laptop microphone and webcam taped over pic.twitter.com/y6ppzI50b7— Dylan Curran (@iamdylancurran) April 10, 2018
The online world is full of people with malicious purposes who are on the lookout to steal and sabotage. One of the ways they do this is by exploiting the webcams all of us have installed. Even while being far away, these hackers can easily turn on and manipulate our webcams and take photos and videos of us. And if you think your camera’s indicator light will turn on, you’re in for a surprise. Not only can they capture us at our most vulnerable but we won’t even know it’s happening.
In order to practice better online safety, we advise you to follow Mark’s footsteps and install a small piece of tape over your webcam’s lens. However, if you’re someone who uses their cam every day then consider going for a Webcam Cover that you can install and slide over as you wish. Follow this tip right now and make sure you keep that tape on.
2. Take Social Media with a Grain of Salt
Who isn’t on social media these days? From Twitter’s opinion posting to the endless stream of Instagram reels, everyone uses these platforms. However, in our quest to always know the latest, we often sacrifice our online safety. If you’re someone who’s on social media a lot, chances are all your public and private moments are out for the world to see.
While sharing with your friends is well and good, if your profile is public or vulnerable then your data can easily be downloaded and used against you. There have been reports of people’s faces being clipped from their Facebook profile pictures and then being used to frame or exploit them for money.
If you truly want to practice online safety, then we strongly suggest you have a cap on how much of your life you share online. Remember, the more you share the more vulnerable you are. If your Facebook account is lying dormant then we advise deleting it immediately.
Another key thing you can use to be safer online is to double-check whatever information you get. People have now started to send mass messages and posts on platforms like Whatsapp and Facebook that are chock full of mis/disinformation. Always double-check whatever you share before you press that send button.
We have no doubt that you have been contacted by a Nigerian prince who wants to give you all his money. Or perhaps the director of a bank suddenly found decade-old stocks worth millions to give you. We don’t need to tell you that these are all online scams used to gain your personal information.
One of the biggest threats to online safety, these email scams trick users into divulging their credit card details and even worse their address to these tricksters. They then use this information to conduct countless transactions and then disappear. Never ever share your private information if you want online email safety.
This also applies to online mails that ask you to update your account details. Whenever you feel like a website is fishy, check the email’s grammar and formatting. Chances are it will be badly worded and very obviously fake. Always remember that if something seems too good to be true, it is.
4. Purchase Only from Secure Sites
When it comes to e-shopping platforms, you’re better off sticking to the likes of Amazon and Flipkart if you prefer online safety. While we don’t mean to say that you cannot trust any online e-commerce website, there is a potential risk every time you shop on a third-party one. Many malicious websites disguise themselves as shopping platforms. They demand your payment information which is then swiped before the transaction is even complete. Thankfully, there’s a very easy way of knowing which website you can trust.
The next time you’re on an e-shopping website, keep an eye for a small padlock on the address bar. That sign denotes that the connection between your computer and the site is secure and cannot be hacked. Furthermore, if you click it, you will be able to see that website’s official security certificate. This way you can be even more sure of your online safety. Make sure to practice this trick every time you visit just not just a shopping website but any sensitive one.
We download a plethora of files and media every day. While most of them are relatively harmless, there are times when you might download something extremely risky. If a user ends up downloading a malicious file, it can dig into their system and hide. When the time comes, the malware can replicate itself and infect the computer thereby causing damage. It can even go as far as to lock our files and that not only comprises your online safety but all your confidential data.
Always make sure that the website you’re downloading from is a legitimate one and can be trusted. In order to get a better idea of a website, try searching for it on Reddit threads so if there are any previous victims they can inform you. Furthermore, you can always look out for the padlock up above.
6. Install an Anti-Malware Software
We cannot stress this enough. You must have Anti-Malware software installed on your computer. While Windows Defender does a fairly good job of protecting your PC from online threats, complete safety is not guaranteed. In order to bolster your online safety, it is imperative you opt for a safe third-party anti-malware.
An anti-malware will not only scan and screen the websites you visit online but will also monitor all your downloads. Furthermore, it will even scan your system regularly for any malware and vulnerabilities so you’re always safe. So if you want to practice proper online safety, check out these best free malware removal tools and take a safer step.
7. VPN Is Your Friend
All of us reading this online have a connection through which we use the internet. And if you know that then you also know that we all have been assigned an IP address which is a number that acts as an identifier. This IP address contains details that can identify us including our exact location, ISP name among more details.
When you are online, your IP address is out in the open for anyone to see. So any websites that you visit contain your digital footprint. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) acts as a secure tunnel between your connection and the websites you want to visit. Any data you transfer including details or downloads while using a VPN is encrypted (secured) so no one can read it including your ISP. You also get a random IP address assigned to you for complete anonymity.
If you truly want complete online safety and shelter from any online threats, then consider getting a VPN. While we advise paying for a VPN to get all the benefits, you can try these best free VPNs to get a better idea of what you’ll be paying for. In any case, get yourself a VPN service to be more secure online.
8. Avoid Using Public Wi-Fi
When we are home using our own Wi-Fi, we can be almost fully sure that it is completely safe because it’s password protected. However, sitting in an airport lounge or cafe, you’ll be tempted to use their open free Wi-Fi, but you shouldn’t. Networks not protected by a password are vulnerable to all kinds of threats including malicious people sitting nearby.
Whatever data you exchange while using public Wi-Fi is not secure and can easily be intercepted by someone. So whether it’s your gaming accounts or extra sensitive bank credentials, nothing is safe. Make sure never to use public Wi-Fi when out and about and even if you do, only stick to Google and YouTube. However, if you listened to us and bought a VPN, you can turn it on and stay safe online on public Wi-Fi.
9. Have Strong Passwords
One of the biggest roadblocks in online safety is having weak passwords. After all, passwords are one of the only things blocking access to our sensitive information. Most people have the pesky habit of having a simple password like 12345 for their accounts. This is further worsened by the fact that people like to have the same password for all their websites.
Vulnerable passwords can very easily be hacked and your data can be lost forever. If you want to stay safe online, then always try to have a strong unique password which is different for every website. If you’re unsure about your current password, go ahead and try out this Password Checker (visit) to test its strength. If you find that it’s weak, opt for a strong password that contains a mix of letters and numbers along with some signs. You can automate this process by going for a password manager. There are a ton of password managers available that you can use.
10. Use Two-Factor Authentication for Online Safety
If you read the above tip but don’t want to go through the trouble of changing all your passwords, two-factor authentication is something you can go for. 2FA is a handy yet secure way to add a second layer of security between your account and anyone trying to access it.
Once you enable 2FA, every time you try to access an account, a special code or prompt will be sent to your mail or device. You will need to enter this code to gain access. 2FA does not rely on your primary password and must be entered even if you enter your password. This is especially helpful if you have a weak primary password but still want to reinforce your account. Google account owners can check out this link on how to enable 2FA. The Steam gamers among you should check this link out for 2FA on Steam.
11. Keep Everything up to Date
One of the most overlooked yet important things is being up to date. And we don’t mean social media. Whether your computer is powered by Microsoft Windows or a macOS, the companies constantly push out software updates. These updates not only bring new features but more often than not fix critical security vulnerabilities that would otherwise leave you wide open to attack. A computer that is not frequently updated is at a big risk of being attacked online or even offline.
So if you value your online safety, always keep your computer and its drivers up to date. All you need to do is press the Windows key, search for Windows Update and you’ll be led right to the update screen. Make sure to scan for new updates from time to time so you’re always fully ready.
We understand that you need to verify your identity for lots of services online. Whether it’s to take a loan for something or open a new bank account, we need to submit our official documents. These documents are often very sensitive and include things like our birth certificate, financial records, driving license, and more. While most of us are pretty careful about this, humans often make mistakes.
There are times when we encounter services that promise to get us quick credit or any other service. All they ask for in exchange are your identity documents for verification. Unless you really trust the website in question, we recommend that you never submit these documents. Most of these services are just another form of identity theft that takes place all over the world. Once they have your document copies, they can quickly replicate them and use them for nefarious purposes. Internet safe use practices dictate you always preserve your identity and never divulge anything.
13. Be Careful About Who You Meet Online
Your identity is not just restricted to your documents, it’s also the information that you share with strangers. Shuttered inside our homes due to the pandemic, most of us have opted to socialize with people online. Many people try to find new friends by joining chatrooms like Omegle.
While there is nothing wrong with finding a new friend, you should always watch out for people who may mean you harm. Platforms like Omegle are full of people who are on the lookout to exploit people. They start by gaining your trust but as soon as they know your name or anything personal, they use that knowledge against you.
Whenever you talk to strangers, always make sure you never share anything that they can identify you with. Whether it’s your name, location, or any other details, we advise being very careful. However, once enough time has passed and you feel they can be trusted, go right ahead. Parents looking to make sure their kids practice online safety should teach this too.
What happens when you practice all the internet safety tips but you still get hacked and lose your data? Well, under normal circumstances we would tell you to dust yourself off and move on. However, if you’re like us and backup your data regularly, we would say just reset and you’re good to go!
Having a data backup of your online and offline files is a foolproof way to ensure your most cherished memories are safe and sound. Even if you end up installing ransomware in the form of files, you can simply reset your PC and restore your data. Make sure to create regular backups of all your sensitive files. The easiest way to do that is to head to services like Google Drive and simply upload the files you hold dear. So the next time a hacker comes knocking, you won’t live in the fear of losing your data.
Bonus: Get an Air-Gapped Computer
You might have come across the term ‘air-gapped computer‘ but passed it by. However, if you’re really intent on practicing safety, this is something you can indulge in. Put simply, an air-gapped computer is a device that has never been connected to any network or the Internet. Air-gapped computers are completely isolated from any and all networks.
The only data that is transferred is through scanned and encrypted USB storage drives. This is done to ensure that nobody on the Internet ever has access to the computer or its files. In order to keep a computer air-gapped, you must ensure that data is only transferred physically and the device never connects to any Wi-Fi network whether public or private.
While mainly used by military establishments and investigative journalists, an air-gapped computer is an extremely handy way to keep your confidential files safe. However, be aware that this will require the purchase of a new computer. Moreover, if you want to be fully safe you will need to open it up and physically remove the network card. You can give this trick a try if you ever feel the need to.
Being safe online is a difficult task but definitely not one that is impossible. Provided you make those tips and tricks daily habits, you will be on the path to complete e-safety. Mobile users looking for security should check out these best free antivirus apps. However, if you’re part of the Apple ecosystem then you can get the all-new iCloud+ and secure your mails with Mail Privacy Protection. Got any more tips you feel we should add? Let us know in the comments below!
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