Ensuring Online Safety for Non-technical Users: Practical Tips and Best Practices

Connecting with friends, finding a new job, or ordering that gorgeous pair of shoes you saw the other day are just some of the countless ways the internet makes our lives easier and better. While an exciting place with limitless possibilities, it also comes with dangers you shouldn’t ignore.

Here are our favorite simple tips you can start following right away for safer and more carefree browsing:

Only Trust Sites with “HTTPS” in their name

Many sites ask for sensitive personal info, from account details to credit card numbers. Sites with lax security make it easy for hackers to intercept such info or track your online behavior. HTTPS is a standard developed for secure information sharing. If you’re purchasing something online, it ensures that only you and the vendor can see your payment information.

Modern browsers like Chrome and Firefox will warn you if you’re entering an unsafe site or refuse to enter it outright. If you’re still unsure, check the address bar. Safe websites should start with “HTTPS” and have a lock next to them.

Use Antivirus & Antimalware Software

Even browsing securely doesn’t mean you’re immune from every virus and online threat. Crafty crooks have found ways to integrate harmful programs into ads or misleading download buttons. 

You should install and regularly update software that can sniff out and contain such threats on all your devices. While you’re at it, make sure you’re running the latest versions of all other software.

Use Strong and Unique Passwords

Passwords keep our accounts safe but can also be a weak link if you don’t handle them correctly. Every site or service requires one, so even people who don’t go online much end up with dozens to remember. It’s hard to keep track of so many, so some people use easy-to-remember ones like “QWERTY.” Others will create a single starter password and use its varieties for all their accounts.

Both practices are dangerous. It’s easy to find lists of the most common passwords online, and correctly guessing one password puts other similar ones at risk. Unique passwords for each account are the way to go. The passwords need to be strong, meaning they should be long and contain numbers & special characters.

Never share these passwords! Don’t keep them in an easily accessible place if you write them down, either. Better yet, consider using a password manager or the best encryption offering cloud with document storage to do the maintenance for you.

Upgrade Your Passwords with 2FA

Two-factor authentication is an effective measure against account theft you might have already encountered if you play online games. 2FA makes it so that knowing a password isn’t enough to log in. With it enabled, the service you’re logging into will send a timed code to your smartphone or authenticator app.

Only entering both will work, so your account remains protected even if someone steals your password. Companies will usually send an email if someone tries to connect but can’t supply the code. The password is no longer safe if it wasn’t you, and you should change it.

Think Before Clicking…

Passwords aren’t the only way to compromise your online security. Crooks will also try to take advantage of you through impersonation and other shady practices. Phishing tops the list of their most common tricks and often happens through email.

A phishing email usually looks like it comes from your bank, favorite gaming company, or even your boss. Some look fishy from the start, but sometimes they sound convincing enough to click on the links inside. These will take you to sites that look like clever copies of the originals and contain forms to put your account or CC information into. Once you do, the crooks can do with it whatever they want.

Carefully read through such emails and never click on links or attachments you didn’t expect. Don’t reply to them. Contact the sender directly instead to check if they really sent the mail.

… and Posting

It’s easy to share everything about our lives on social media. That doesn’t mean you should, though! You should set all your social media accounts to private and befriend only people you know personally.

The less info you give out online, the better. It can save you from future embarrassment and give crooks less to work with. Persistent ones can find out info like your address or your dog’s name from a single pic, which could be enough to start impersonating you or get past a security question.

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