If you’ve ever felt unsafe online, you are not alone. In 2021, internet users worldwide discussed their fears of online security (or lack thereof) through a survey. About 66 percent of respondents said they feared identity theft.
Of these online users, only 57 percent were confident about the security measures they took to protect themselves against identity theft. This article provides a deep dive into some of the online threats and top security tips that online users can follow to stay safe online.
Online Threats to Watch Out For
Learning about cybersecurity can be very overwhelming for people because of the increasing sophistication of illegal cyber activities. A few years back, individual users’ main concern was losing their passwords against mischievous hackers.
Nowadays, news about successful cyberattacks or phishing attacks causes people to panic. Some go to their online platforms, demanding stricter measures and transparency. Phishing attacks are common sources of worry because it involves tricking users into doing something as seemingly harmless as clicking a link.
Some cyber attackers have also leveraged the vulnerabilities of social media platforms and the poor cybersecurity know-how of users. These sinister players steal social media users’ pictures and information to create a pseudo-account. This fake account is used to impersonate the real user and perform questionable acts, like asking the user’s friends or family for money.
People with crucial roles in institutions are the primary targets of these attacks. Their stolen information is often used to break into the institution’s database and steal high-sensitive information like logins and credit card details.
Seven Security Tips to Stay Safe Online
Fortunately, there are security measures that individuals can do on their own or with the support of security experts to keep themselves and their families safe online. Below are the tried-and-tested tips online users can follow.
1. Monitor Your Credit Cards
Having only a few credit cards effectively limits your exposure to hackers, scammers, and malicious actors. When you use fewer cards, you can easily track your spending, payments and account activity.
By being aware of what’s happening with your accounts, it’s easier to pinpoint strange or fraudulent charges. This helps reduce the risk of identity theft and other data breaches that may happen by compromising one of your accounts.
Should you fill your wallet with credit cards or limit the number you have? It all depends on how you use credit and what makes sense for your financial life. Money Girl host Laura Adams explains how to use credit responsibly.
2. Fight Distraction with Awareness
About 47% of phishing victims admitted to being distracted during the phishing attempt, according to the Psychology of Human Error report. When online users let down their guard, hackers can use their tiredness or distracted state to send out harmful emails.
So be aware that cybercriminals succeed when you’re distracted or unfocused. Awareness and caution should also be applied at home (besides the office), and prioritize taking a break or rest.
3. Protect Your Computer
Keep your computer, tablet, smartphone, and other devices updated–including your browsers. System updates include security features or patches that fix vulnerabilities. More often than not, users tend to click “Remind me later” instead of activating the updates.
This habit of procrastinating security updates leaves several devices susceptible to malware and other viruses. Besides using system updates, people need to download and update their device’s antivirus software. It scans your files and can perform the same scan for emails. Experts advise running a full antivirus scan at least twice a month.
4. Try out VPN Solutions
You can stop cyberattacks on a wi-fi or network level. Using a virtual private network (VPN) ensures a secure connection from your device to the Internet. This technology uses “tunneling” to encrypt data packets that pass from a VPN client to a VPN server.
Businesses already use VPN solutions to keep their online working environment free from cyber threats. Individuals can do the same using a VPN provider or investing in a VPN router. The latter is an excellent choice for those who want to use the network without additional configurations.
5. Beware of Links
The World Economic Forum dubs links as “cybercriminals’ most potent weapon,” and for a good reason. Since email antivirus software can detect malware when sent as attachments, cybercriminals use links instead.
So, these harmful emails come into people’s inboxes, and their message invites users to click on that link. For instance, an email impersonating your bank’s email will ask you to click a link to resolve an issue. The sender can also say you received a voucher from a retailer and ask you to click a link to access that voucher.
Instead of clicking the link, double-check the sender’s email. Be wary of misspellings, as this usually indicates fake email accounts. Ask the people around you if they receive a similar email. In most cases, typing the subject headline on a search engine can yield news about cyber activities.
6. Prepare a Reporting Plan
Despite developing secure online habits, some things may need to be fixed. A family member or employee might make mistakes, or some vulnerabilities might give way to cyberattacks. It would be great to be proactive and draft a protocol for reporting cyberattacks.
The protocol must cover the following basics:
- Update a backup for your file.
- Document the security incidents.
- Collect evidence and file a police report.
- If your credit card details are compromised, place it on fraud alert.
- Report the incident to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
7. Use Debit Cards with Caution
Debit cards are a popular tool for online shopping, but they also pose a significant risk if used carelessly. Here are some tips to stay safe while using debit cards online:
- Choose a debit card with added security features, such as one that requires a PIN or a two-factor authentication process.
- Keep your card information private and never share it with anyone, including family and friends.
- Use a reputable payment processor when making online transactions.
- Check your bank statements regularly to ensure that there are no unauthorized transactions.
- Consider setting spending limits on your child or teen’s debit card to prevent overspending.
Deal With Security Issues in 2023
To feel safe browsing online, beware of links and fight distraction with awareness or rest. Ensure that your computer or device’s security updates are on time. Prepare a reporting plan for you and your family. Opt for high-quality VPN solutions that fit your security needs if you want to invest in long-term updates.