Spending time on the internet is excellent. What you can do is close to limitless! If you want to buy a 60-inch dinosaur stuffed animal, there is definitely a store that sells it. Want to contact a friend that lives on the other side of the planet? No problem at all! However, there are also some rotten eggs around on the internet.
These rotten eggs are often people that try to get your personal information or money without intending to send you anything in return. Others want to use your family pictures to use as blackmail to get your money. While this sounds all very bad, we’ve collected six rules you should follow to stay safe on the internet.
Use a secure connection
Most PC’s are connected to your home wi-fi or cable. Those access points are usually safe to use since you and your housemates are the only ones using this connection. However, when you find yourself in a public place, you may be tempted to connect to a free internet source. While it is, of course, very easy and handy to use a free wi-fi point, your personal information is at risk.
Free internet access points are free for everyone, especially hackers. These people can access your device through the network and watch whatever you are doing. So, if you decide to check your bank account, they can easily find out your credit card numbers and name.
By using a secure connection, you not only reduce the chance of being accessed by others, but you also often have faster internet as less people are using it.
Keep an eye on your privacy settings
Websites like Facebook and Twitter allow their users to customize their privacy settings. This way, you can prevent strangers from seeing your profile information, or give them a limited view. This protects you against ill-intending strangers, but it’s also profitable when you are looking for a new job.
Current and potential employers can use your social media pages to find out more about you. If your profile is not private, they may see photos or information that will not work in your favor towards them. Perhaps you once posted a status saying, “I called in sick today at work, just to spend a day at the beach.” When a potential employer sees this, they may not be so tempted to hire you anymore.
Don’t download everything you see
You know the feeling when your series ends with a cliffhanger, and you desperately want to watch the next episode already? Well, there are plenty of websites that offer downloadable games, TV-shows, music, and more. However, not all of them are reliable.
If you don’t pay attention, you could easily download a virus instead of your favorite show. Therefore, it’s essential to do your research on a specific website before trying to download it. Even if the site looks legit, there could be a virus hidden somewhere.
The best way to go at it is by installing an anti-virus program. This program allows you to scan websites and documents before opening them. That way, you have a better view of what is and what isn’t legit.
Only buy from trustworthy websites
Like we mentioned in the intro, you can buy almost anything online. However, that doesn’t mean that you should. While there are plenty of reliable websites, there are also many unreliable websites that don’t intend on shipping the products to you.
To make sure you only purchase from secure websites, you can check the URL-bar on top of the page. If the link starts with ‘https,’ this means that they are safe (the s stands for secure). On top of that, you can always look for reviews online for this specific website.
When you’re buying from an individual buyer on a website like eBay, you can check their personal reviews to see if they are trustworthy. If they have too many negative reviews, it’s best to move on to the next seller.
Don’t give everything away
Your online friend Mara seems very interested in you and your life. Now she’s asking you to lend her $200 since she has to pay the vet bills for her cat. As expected, you are willing to help, but at what cost?
Even when you think you have a great connection to someone online, they may still be out to get your money or personal information. Therefore, you mustn’t give away your information and money that easy.
However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t help Mara. If you genuinely want to pay her vet bills, ask her for the official document and name of the vet. You can then call them and ask to verify the information. If everything checks out, you can go ahead.
Another way to help is by offering to share the post or to start a crowdfunding page. While you may still lose money if the bills turn out to be a lie, you will lose significantly less than when you pay without asking questions.
Create a strong password
As many times as you see this tip online, it’s genuinely one of the most crucial things you need to do. Hackers often use programs or bots to try and hack into accounts of their victims. These programs use different password options at high speed and can usually access your files within a few seconds if your password is not secure.
However, if you create a password that consists of:
- Upper- and lowercase letters
- Various characters
- No personal information, like your birthday, or mom’s name
Then, the program needs more time to access your files. Hackers like to be quick and efficient, so a few seconds delay is already too much, and they will most likely skip your profile.
If you often forget your passwords, it can be helpful to keep track of them by using an online password safe, or by writing them down in an analog notebook. The latter option is only dangerous if you lose the journal, or if someone else can easily find it.
There is no need to stop enjoying your time spend on the internet. However, you can never be too careful to protect your personal information. With the help of the tips mentioned above, you don’t have to worry about falling victim to a hacker or scammer. Try to remember not to trust everything immediately, to create a secure password, research websites and programs before you download or buy anything and update your privacy settings where needed. Now you’re ready to face the internet. Have fun!