If you are surfing the internet without understanding the nuances of online safety, you may be putting yourself and your computer in harm’s way. Online safety has many names: internet, cyber, and e-safety. Online safety is necessary for computers, smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
Protecting yourself against online harm goes further than many people think. Parents who post photos of their children can unknowingly provide child predators with locations to find them.
Not only can a lack of online safety cause computer viruses, but it can also lead to jeopardized finances, unsafe communications, and affect a person’s mental health and emotional and physical well-being.
Another area, fake news, can lead to faulty views of the world. Social media influencers can alter our behavior or cause us to spend money on purchases we do not need. Online gambling sites can lead to monetary loss and the development of unhealthy habits.
There is more to protecting your online safety than creating secure passwords. We look at some of the most dangerous activities online and what you can do to protect yourself and others.
Dangerous Things Online
We often unknowingly engage in potentially dangerous online activities. That can lead to financial compromise of accounts, unauthorized purchases, computer viruses, hacking, and other significant problems. The last place you want to take risks is with your internet presence, so protecting your online security is crucial. Check out some of the dangerous online activities listed below.
- Using one password on all sites
Insecure passwords are a leading cause of online hacking. Too many people use common identifiers, such as company names, birthdates, or sequential numbers and letters, to create passwords. Others use the same password everywhere. The same applies to banks and credit cards. If you use one passcode for every account, once they have all your cards, they can access everything. Using password managers can help generate and store safe passwords so you do not have to worry about them.
- Wrong banking site
One of the problems that could happen without people realizing it is a slight mistake in typing a bank or credit card company’s URL. Scammers know that people make mistakes, and they set up false websites that look exactly like legitimate ones but have slightly different URLs. Once you try to log in, they use technology to gain your passwords and login information. They can then use that to enter your legitimate accounts and access your money.
- Shopping in shady or unknown places
Just when you think you found a fantastic offer online, you have second thoughts. Trust your instincts because something that sounds too good to be true often is. Only shop from trusted sources and research new companies online before purchasing from their website. Multiple problems could happen in this scenario:
- The website could be fraudulent; they take your credit card information and use your account.
- Although they may offer a great deal, hidden fees or higher or multiple charges may be placed on your card. It could take quite some time to get your money back and get that company to stop charging you.
- The products you receive could be counterfeit, cheap quality, and potentially dangerous – or you may not receive anything at all.
Shopping and banking on public Wi-Fi
Anytime you use public Wi-Fi, whether at a restaurant, hotel, or other location, there is often a warning that the connection is not secure. Public Wi-Fi is a favorite way for cybercriminals to get your information. Enhancing your online presence with additional technology can protect your information. When on cellular devices, use your mobile network for all transactions.
- Opening unknown emails
It is easy to be tricked into thinking that the email you are about to open is from a trusted source. However, people forget that each day, opening themselves up to viruses and hackers. Never open an attachment that you do not trust. Always hover your mouse over the sender’s address before clicking to see if it is legitimate. Also, do not open plain text or HTML messages from unknown sources.
- Unsecure social media practices
Getting caught up in sharing personal details and experiences is easy, especially on vacation. When you post photos of yourself at the airport, cruise terminal, or exciting locales, the criminals know your home is empty. The better option is to wait until you get home from the trip and then start making posts about your vacation.
Next up is the dangerous habit of sharing too much information about your children, including their school, family history, and birthdays. Once you do, others have that information, which they can use to gain access to private accounts and trick your young child into going with them.
Perhaps one of the worst things you can do is post everything “publicly” on social media rather than to “friends,” especially on Facebook. Not only do you risk opening yourself up to hacking and other dangers, but you also put your friends and family at risk.
That brings us to online quizzes that you see on social media sites. It may be tempting to see what your name means, what song best personifies you, and other such quizzes, but remember, as you answer all those questions, you are giving the cybercriminals information about you they can use to try to hack your accounts.
Social media network chat rooms are as dangerous now as they were in the past. Be careful not to share personal information in these groups.
Potential Online Dangers You Can Meet
The list of potential online dangers continues to grow as cybercriminals create new ways of stealing your identity, information, and money.
Social media ridicule, also known as cyberbullying, can have dire consequences for the victims. While this can happen to adults, it is often aimed at children and teens, frequently by their peers. Cyberbullying takes playground bullying to a whole new and dangerous level. The information shared publicly can lead to emotional damage and has driven some young people to suicide. Warn your children about cyberbullying, monitor their online presence and accounts, and watch for changes in behavior or mood. Search your child’s name frequently online to see if any information comes up.
One of the most popular methods of getting information from people is when cyber criminals send fraudulent emails – often using recognizable names or companies. It is often an informal email, such as “Hi,” “How are you,” or “Check this out.” Phishing (smishing) can also be done through text messages or messaging apps and works similarly. Do not respond, block the contact, and do not open links or attachments. These messages aim to get personal information and credit card numbers.
- Bad impact and community
Social media can be enjoyable by helping you stay connected to others. It can also have its downsides. Some people, especially those prone to depression, loneliness, and anxiety, can experience feelings of inadequacy about their appearance, status, and life in general when they see what everyone else is doing. Mental state can suffer from spending too much time visiting your online community. The situation can worsen when special health conditions are present, especially those that affect emotional well-being. Hormonal changes, including human growth hormone deficiency, can heighten these issues. Find out how to get a legal HGH prescription online here.
Malicious software is dangerous to your computer and your wallet. Here are some of the most prevalent risks:
- Ransomware: criminals gain access to and lock a computer from remote locations, preventing you from using it. The cybercriminal sends a message saying they will unlock the computer once you pay their ransom. Do not try to deal with this yourself; you will need professional help from a trusted source.
- Spyware: unknowingly downloading spyware software onto your computer allows cybercriminals to spy on your activity, including collection back and credit card information and passwords.
- Viruses: a virus can cause destruction to your computer and your files. Viruses attach to documents and programs, slow down your computer, delete files, and allow monitoring of your information by cybercriminals.
- Trojan: disguised as a regular computer program or file, trojan tricks the user into downloading and installing the malware on their computer. Cybercriminals can access the infected computer, stealing personal information and financial details.
- Botnets: cyber attackers remotely control networks of virus-infected computers, sending spam and other malicious activities without the user’s knowledge.
Loss of a confidential information
Whether through malware, phishing, public WI-FI, or other dangers, losing your confidential information cannot only cause you headaches; it can lead to financial disaster.
Protecting your online presence is crucial, whether on a computer or cell phone. The most common warning signs that you have been hacked include your computer crashing or freezing more often than usual, unfamiliar files appearing that you have not downloaded, editing or deleting of files, messages, or emails sent from your account or social media that you did not authorize, and increased central processing unit (CPU) usage.
Keep your operating system up-to-date with the latest version to protect yourself. Have antivirus and firewall software in place. Make sure you are using strong, unique passwords for each account. Change your passwords every three months for added security, and never share them with anyone you do not know well and trust. Whenever you are on financial websites, log off and close that browser window. Do not use the same window for any other transactions.
Be wary of online scams, and never open unknown emails. You are not an heir to someone in another country – one of the most common scams. Hold your mouse over the email address before opening an email that looks like it is coming from a familiar place. You will then see if it is the official website. NEVER give out personal information unless you have personally called the legitimate number for a company – look it up yourself, do not trust the number in the email.
The more steps you take to protect yourself and your loved ones, the better able you will be to enjoy your time on the internet.