Safety and security are no longer limited to interactions you have with people. Thanks to the advent of the internet and social media, personal security extends well past the four walls of your home and office. There are two main concerns when it comes to your online security: identity safety and physical safety.
We live in an age where the internet provides convenience and almost immediate results. In exchange for that ease, we provide access to sensitive information. That information includes dates of birth, social security numbers, addresses, and passwords. In a such a digital age, our financial and actual identities are tied to this data. While there are legitimate reasons some websites and organizations will ask for this, there are others that should trigger your suspicion.
Banking institutions, employers, and school websites will all require some of this sensitive information; most will not require all your personal identifying data. Before you provide any of it online, ensure that the website utilizes standard security measures such as encryption identified by “HTTPS” in the website address.
Passwords are the standard for protecting your sensitive information and are only as secure as you make them. When creating a password, you want to resist the urge to use common phrases, relatives’ names, or a birthday as a password. Instead, create a password using a mix upper case, lower case, special characters and numbers. Avoid using the same password, or a version of the same password, for every login. And of course, don’t write them down! If you need help remembering all of those passwords, use password management software such as KeePass or 1Password that manage and secure your passwords.
Phishing and scam emails are still a prevalent issue to contend with and perpetrators are only becoming more and more sophisticated. Sure, you may know to delete any email from a Nigerian Prince but what about the email that looks like it’s from your bank asking you to verify your password? No reputable organization will ever ask you to verify your password or any personal information via email. If you receive an email of this nature, look at the sender’s email address, the reply-to email address, and the grammar and format of the email. On many computers, if you hoover over images and links, it will reveal the web address. Never click a link, simply preview the web address link to gain more information about the sender. If anything looks suspicious, delete it and contact the company who purportedly sent the email to verify its authenticity.
The internet can feel at once anonymous and close knit. The truth is somewhere in the middle. You leave a digital fingerprint behind wherever you go online and with enough fingerprints anyone can find you in the real world. The question is: who would you want finding you?
The same rules we were taught as children apply to our online lives: don’t tell strangers where you live or work, don’t provide any identifying information, and avoid telling someone of your living situation (alone, with family, etc.). If you have children, no matter their age, you should monitor their internet usage and know who they are communicating with and what is being said.
Social media adds another element to be aware of when it comes to your online security. The ability to check-in allows hundreds, if not thousands, of people to know where you are at any given time. If you check-in, do it at the end of your visit. If someone was tracking your movements, they would be less likely to find you after you leave a location. Never check-in at home, school, or your place of employment and if you’ve done so in the past, go back and delete those posts. Disabling your GPS location feature on your smartphone is another way to keep your movements private.
Finally, it may be tempting to make “friends” with anyone who sends you a request, but there are a few things you should consider before you do. Who is this person? How do you know one another? What kind of information do you share on your profile? If the request is from a complete stranger, with no mutual acquaintances, and you share quite a bit of your personal life online, your best decision is to decline the request. If it’s an acquaintance, you may want to limit what they can see and access. Your profile should always be set to “private” so you have full control over who can see the information you share.
Just like maintaining personal safety, online safety and security doesn’t require a degree or extensive training to be effective in your life. What you do need is common sense and the ability to pause and evaluate the situation and information before you proceed online.
Contact us for more information on how we can train you, your family members, or employees on online safety and security.