Over the past 20 years, digital technology has grown from a minor convenience to a life necessity. We need it for work, school, entertainment, and staying in touch with family and friends. However, as technology grows, it’s important to be careful about how you use it. Here are just a few ways to protect yourself and stay safe as you surf the web.
Keep Your Head Up and Your Eyes Open
Critical awareness is the best and easiest way to keep yourself safe. Scams and hacks are everywhere, but most aren’t targeted. Keep an eye out for anything that looks suspicious. If you aren’t sure where a link leads, don’t click on it! Remember to question everything you see out there, approaching it with a critical eye and a discerning mind.
Be Wary of Phishing
If you ever receive an email from an unknown company pressuring you to click on a link — stop and wait! Phishing is a specific type of scam where a company sends you emails pretending to be a reputable business, enticing you to click on links so they can find your personal information.
But phishing is rarely targeted. If you ignore the emails or mark them as spam, it’s easy to stay safe! Here are some helpful ways to avoid getting scammed with phishing emails.
- Stop and think before clicking on an unknown link or downloading an unknown file.
- If a friend or family member gets hacked, the hacker may send you emails through their account. Read emails with discernment and clarity, ensuring that the words sound like their own, not a hacker’s.
- Instead of clicking on a link through an email, type it in manually into the search bar.
- Call the person who sent you the email if you are unsure whether it is from them.
- Does an email make you really excited about something you don’t normally care about, or do you feel pressured to click on it? Keep an eye out for clickbait!
Protect Your Passwords
Passwords are the best way to protect your personal information. Be sure to use passwords that are hard to guess — which means avoiding using personal information, such as names or dates, or popular phrases. Using multi-factor authentication (MFA) is even better than a password. Turn on a text-based MFA under settings on your device, or you can use an even more secure authenticator app, such as Microsoft Authenticator. This will require you to enter a number shown on the app to get into your account.
Take Care with Your Devices
Technological devices may be a necessity, but they are also a luxury. Treat them as such! Always lock your device when you’re not using it and be sure you know where your device is at all times. If you are traveling, don’t leave your devices out in a hotel room. Either lock them up in a safe, take them with you, or hide them some other way. Don’t just leave passwords lying around on sticky notes. If your device is somehow stolen, immediately change all your passwords to your accounts so you won’t be hacked.
Another time to be careful is when using public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi is much easier to hack, so it’s a good idea to avoid looking at sensitive information like bank statements or credit card bills while on public Wi-Fi.
Manage Your Data Wisely
Any data stored online must be heavily protected. If anyone ever requests any data information, go above and beyond to verify that it is not a scam, even if it seems like it comes directly from your bank or a family member. The best way to do this is simply to give them a quick call so you can hear their voice directly.
Never keep any passwords in an online document. If a hacker can get into your online accounts, they could definitely access your documents. If you need to write down passwords, write them on paper and keep them locked up in your house. Even better — memorize them!
Even though more and more information is stored online, it is still the best policy to keep a backup paper copy of the most sensitive files. Even if you don’t need to use them often, keep this data stored in a physical safe in your home.
The internet can be a wonderful place. It provides so many opportunities for growth and learning, connections and relationships. However, this is only possible if we remember to keep our guards up and our eyes open. Stay safe, and enjoy this emerging technology and the chances it offers!