Communicating Safely on the Internet
Every day you step out of the house, you are exposed to a world filled with possible dangers waiting to happen. Car accidents, hurricanes, fires; just to name a few. Even worse, there are dangers lurking in the sanctum that is your home. The windows, and the back door are not the only places burglars can get into your home and life. The ultimate “backdoor” is the security lapses in with your internet, your cyberspace.
The Importance of Being Safe on the Internet
When it comes to safety on the internet, the necessity can’t be overemphasized. But so often, people who use social media, streaming networks, and other online platforms take these necessary precautions for granted. However, you can’t afford to live that way if you want to protect your money, location data, and even yourself in this day and age. It is important to take online dangers just as seriously as you would a cyclone or twister.
~Protect Private Information and Data
~Being online, secure or not, exposes you to risks such as identity theft and fraud, even more so when it involves sharing private data. However, when you practice internet safety and having those additional security layers, you greatly reduce those risks and help protect your personal information from falling into the wrong hands.
~Reduces the Risk of Being Assaulted Online and Offline
~Unsettling images and other forms of media are constantly being shared across the web, and this can be damaging and sometimes triggering to an individual, especially mentally. Worst of all, there have also been numerous instances of people being assaulted in the real world by someone they encountered on the internet, and these numbers are only rising as technology evolves.
~Taking extra safety precautions when on the internet, like turning off your location whenever possible, you can lessen or even prevent this from happening to you or your loved ones.
~Prevents Life-Altering Events From Occurring
~It's old news at this point that people have had their lives ruined due to what transpired over the internet. Not only by sharing private information, but also by making poor decisions and having those displayed online forever. Nothing in the internet can ever be fully deleted!
~These scaring situations can drive some to go as far as ending their lives, especially children. To help prevent this, employing certain internet safety measures and sharing certain knowledge could quite literally safe a life.
Possible Dangers Lurking in Your Screens
Now that we've covered the importance of being safe on the internet, it's time to learn what exactly you're protecting you and your family from. There are dangers lurking on the other end of your computer screens that can put you and your loved ones at risk of humiliation or life-threatening situations.
~Nosy family members aren't the only ones you should be wary of when it comes to eavesdropping, people online can listen in on your conversations. Digital eavesdropping happens in a similar way eavesdropping happens in the real world. It's an act where a third party interferes with communication happening between two points of a network.
~Here's a real-world, seemingly "harmless" scenario:
~~Have you ever had a discussion with a family member or friend about a certain product and you check out your feed and that's all that's being advertised on your screen? See Norton’s explanation on why and how our mobile phones listen to us.
~~Seems like a coincidence, doesn't it? But as far as the internet is concerned, nothing is ever really a coincidence.
~Eavesdropping isn't only used to market products to you. Network eavesdropping is another type of eavesdropping that occurs where data packets are collected/captured and transferred to different places. Also, experienced hackers can hack into your camera and do more than just listen to you, they can watch your every move.
~A classic example is calls made over voiceovers IP. Your conversations can be recorded without your knowledge and used even when not authorized. Other ways you can be eavesdropped on is by apps that request permission to access your mics, and actors (aka hackers) hacking into them etc.
~Malware AKA Data Collection Software
~Malware or malicious software is any file or program that is intentionally harmful to a computer or network. Regardless of the specific form of malware and its end goal, all types of malwares are designed to benefit the hacker at the expense of the user.
~The hacker can decide to use a dangerous program to exploit the user by collecting personal identifiable information (PII), financial data or cause damage to user files. Examples of malware threats are trojan, spyware, etc.
~A harmless act like clicking on a pop-up ad or fake link can be the very door that allows a hacker to gain access to your information and use it to commit identity theft. Without your knowledge, hackers can run spyware on your computer and use it to record and track your internet history, usage, and patterns.
~They then collect this information such as credit card information, social security numbers, bank account information, etc., and use it to take your hard-earned money. This can be very harmful to you not only financially, but you could be implicated in a crime you knew nothing about.
~The popular MTV based show “Catfished” showed how people used fake profiles to communicate with people they saw on the internet. Often the repercussions of their actions were mainly emotionally debilitating to their victims, but generally thought as, as harmless.
~However, catfishing can be much more sinister and dangerous. Victims of catfishing can be kidnapped, assaulted, defrauded and even killed by unknown parties, when internet meets real-life.
~Bullying is nothing new to society, but the internet has given the act of bullying a greater platform, especially in social spaces. Cyberbullying or Cyber harassment involves the defamation of an individual, spreading offensive and hurtful messages to someone on messaging platforms, etc.
~Much like in-person bullying, it's meant to spread hate, undermine, and embarrass the target. In extreme cases these actions can lead to people taking their own lives. As what is considered a civilized society everyone should step back and reevaluate before bullying, in-person or behind a screen. Doing this can save thousands of lives a year.
~Lost Jobs and Bad Choices
~The internet has on several occasions caused the complete ruin of an individual. Either from a message taken out of context or sensitive media being released; people have lost their careers and even families as a result of sensitive information being leaked. That's why caution both online and in person should be taken at every point in time.
Online Habits to Live By
With all the dangers that seem to be out to get you on the internet, you might even be tempted to go completely off the grid. Instead of opting for something so drastic, following some simple safety rules and guidelines that can reduce or eliminate your susceptibility to risks on the internet may be a better and easier choice.
~Keep Personal Information Private
~Be suspicious of any website you come across that requests PII such as your address, social security number, credit card number, etc., especially if they're not a trusted or reputable source.
~Create Strong Passwords and Rotate Them Regularly
~Using 'Password' or '12345' as your password won't cut it. Instead, go for information that will be hard to guess by anyone trying to get into your private data. Better yet, a completely random password is best. Password managers often offer this functionality as a standard feature.
~No matter how full-proof your password might be, you mustn't get too comfortable with it. That's why you should have more than a single password and make sure you rotate them regularly. This seems to be the piece of advice that not many people take seriously, but this is the trick that helps the most in protecting your information.
~Set up Custom Privacy Settings
~Good privacy settings will give you control over what pops up on your screen or what another service or internet user has access to. Privacy settings indicate whether or not you give consent to the collection of your private data. That's why it's important to customize your privacy settings that work best for you.
~Have an Up-to-Date Antivirus and Security Program Installed
~Your antivirus is the wall that blocks any malware from getting onto your computer. Unfortunately, malware is constantly evolving and might find a way to get past your defenses. That's why you should always make sure you are on the most updated version of your antivirus software. These programs keep up with the most recent advances in malware and listen to customer feedback, so these updates are done with a serious purpose.
~Be Wary of Every Person you Meet Online
~Even if you feel the person you're talking to on the other end is a kindred spirit, keep your personal information to yourself. Hold some degree of suspicion to people you talk with over the internet because you don't know who's who. Even friends you know in person, always vet them or ask them directly if the profile you want to ‘friend’ is their true and active profile.
~Follow Safe Browsing Practices
~Some examples of safe browsing practices are:
- Block pop-ups
- Use an ad blocker
- Turn on incognito browsing
- Clear your web browser cookies and cache regularly
- Use a VPN
- Always have an updated antivirus software
~Never Use Public WiFi Accesses
~Everybody likes freebies, but as tempting as it might seem it's never a good idea to use public WiFi, especially when they're not at a trusted location.
~Public WiFi can give people access to your browsing history, type history, password incites, and patterns which they can then use in committing various cybercrimes and other malicious acts.
~Instead, most mobile phone companies offer “hotspots” to use as your own traveling personal WiFi access. Another route would be to connect via VPN.
~Don't Download Items from Untrusted Sources
~A trojan is a type of malware that can be hidden into downloadable files. And when you download it, it gives the hacker silent access to your private information, which can be used against you. These types of files can be embedded into emails or on malicious sites. Make sure to only download emailed files from trusted contacts and sources. Additionally, only visit trusted sites.
~Only Purchase Items from Secure Sites
~People get scammed over the internet daily by purchasing from sites that aren't legitimate. Not receiving your swag is not the worst part, having your card or banking information leaked to a third party user could happen when these unfaithful sites sell your information to the highest bidder.
~So, if you are unsure about a website and there legitimacy, it is best to skip the purchase and look for the item elsewhere.
~Be Careful of What You Post on Social and within Forms
~Personal information, from PII, to the new presents you got from Santa this year; when posted to social media or entered into a form can be used against an individual in the form of blackmail or to mark the user with a bullseye. Always think twice before posting something or disclosing private information to another person over the internet.
The internet is a vast world and while it can be very helpful, it can be just as harmful. Knowing the dangers, how to spot them, and how to protect yourself from them will all benefit you in communications and using the internet safely.