As more and more of our lives shift online, posting absolutely everything we do can seem like the normal thing to do. And the truth is that it’s becoming normal to have a picture of our lives online and follow others’ lives on the Internet. But as the capacities of the Internet expand, so do its limitations and the things of which we need to be cautious in both our personal and professional lives.
Why is Internet Safety So Important?
Listen, we’re not trying to convince you that the internet isn’t a place where you can learn a lot and have fun; in fact, it’s probably the greatest invention humankind has ever had. But with all its benefits comes some very legitimate concerns that we should take into consideration and think about when we post personal information online.
This list is not exhaustive by any means, but these are some of the main dangers of the internet:
Viruses and malware
How do you know if you’ve fallen victim to any of the above? If you hear about any of the following, you might need to reconsider your internet safety:
Cyber threat: danger of destroying or stealing data
Data breach/leak: sensitive information is copied, stolen, or viewed by an unauthorized user
Ransomware: malicious software that corrupts and ruins files
Hacker: the person behind the aforementioned attacks
The most common issues on the Internet
If you’re having trouble picturing how the risks above could relate to your personal or professional life, we get it. After all, no one thinks this could happen to them, right? Well, you’re right: until it does.
This is probably the biggest threat to Internet users: almost all our information is stored online such as our personal identifying information, financial information, and addresses. Once a hacker gains access to your network through unauthorized access, they have complete control over everything on your computer: access to your bank accounts, your account and credit card numbers, and transactions.
Email fraud, spam, and phishing
We’ve all received those emails promising a long-lost fortune or the opportunity to take an all expense paid cruise. Let’s break down three similar yet different risks:
Email fraud: this kind of threat comes in the form of fraudulent emails asking you for personal or identifying information such as passwords which are then used to hack your accounts.
Spam: annoying more than anything else, spam emails occur when your information has been sold to third parties and while it doesn’t pose a serious danger, constant calls and unwanted emails can be frustrating.
Phishing: possibly the most dangerous of the three, phishing attempts pose as trusted or known sources to scare you with a fake problem to prompt you to provide personal information.
Sexual abuse and pornography
The Internet is full of illegal pornography and pedophiles in equal measure and both are dangerous; internet pornography takes photos and videos posted in other areas of the internet and reposts them on pornographic sites without the person’s consent. The rise of AI has also increased the risk of altered images with AI tools adding sexual aspects to otherwise clean images.
Pedophiles also thrive on the Internet in a place where they can seek out young and impressionable children, build a rapport with, and then abuse them through chat and webcams or even persuading them to meet in person where they can physically abuse them. As the Internet gained popularity in the early 2000s, the number of online pedophilia cases grew astronomically.
Major terrorism groups worldwide use cyberterrorism as both a tool for carrying out attacks and for communicating and distributing propaganda. Most government databases also store incredible amounts of sensitive information and are frequent victims of cyberattacks that aim to leak this data.
Ways to Improve your Personal Internet Safety
Thankfully, there are lots of ways to help protect your personal information online and ensure that you’re using the Internet safely in your personal life.
Choose strong passwords
We know it’s convenient to use the same password or some variation of the same password for the majority of your accounts, but think about the risk of a hacker gaining access to that password: if your bank accounts and email use the same password, even two-factor authentication won’t stop the hacker from gaining access. When choosing your new password, follow these tips:
Pay attention to password requirements: nowadays, lots of websites won’t let you use a password you used in the past or will show you the strength of your chosen password: listen to them!
Change your passwords frequently: we know, changing your password isn’t fun and who wants to remember an entirely different password? It seems tedious but the risks of data breaches are high and protecting your information should be your first priority.
Keep your passwords to yourself: you may want to text your friend your Netflix password so they can watch the new episodes of Love is Blind, but if that’s the same password you’re using for other accounts, you’ve just sent them access to lots of your information. Plus, if someone else saw those messages, they’d have your password.
Ironhack’s tip: if you’re having trouble remembering your passwords and when to change them, use online password storage options like LastPass to securely store all your user information in the same place.
Protect your personal information
Don’t make hackers’ lives easier! Whenever you sign up for a new account or membership online or make an online purchase, make sure the site is legitimate and read the terms and conditions. Before entering your banking information to make a purchase online, make sure the website is secure. How? Websites will usually have a padlock image in the search bar or have the “https://” prefix if they’re secure.
Protect your devices
Can you believe that 30% of all smartphone users don’t lock their phones using passwords, facial recognition, or fingerprints? But those aren’t the only devices that should be locked at all times: make sure your computer, smartwatch, Smart TV, and tablets are also secured.
Make smart WiFi decisions
Public WiFi networks aren’t always secure; if you are using one, don’t enter personal information. And for your at-home WiFi, make sure you protect your network with a password and (of course!) change your password frequently.
Use 2-factor authentication
We know it’s annoying to have to receive a code to your phone or email to log into your computer, but this second check helps guarantee that it’s really you trying to access your accounts. And if it isn’t, you’ll be alerted and can change your passwords.
Ways to Improve your Professional Internet Safety
All of the previously mentioned tips are also important at the workplace, but there are a few more aspects to keep in mind to avoid any sort of problem. After all, lots of companies work with the sensitive information of other people, meaning they need to be on top of security at all times.
Ensure employees properly secure their devices
This has become even more crucial with the recent rise of remote work and companies must have clear processes in place with employees to ensure they know how to properly store and protect their company devices when they’re not in use.
Stay up-to-date with software updates
Companies are constantly releasing software updates and many of those include important security changes that help protect your information. Educate your employees on the importance of updating their devices when prompted or even turn on automatic software updates so that their devices update on their own.
Virtualized Personal Networks are a secure way to access the Internet; it encrypts traffic and protects the data that employees are using. And even better, if you implement a VPN at your office, users will be able to log into that VPN from their home WiFi or while traveling for work, meaning that data and information are always protected.
Train your staff
Your team won’t be able to flag cyber threats if they don’t know what to look for. And others may not understand the importance of avoiding public WiFi or using VPNs unless they’ve received the proper cyber safety education. When talking to your team, highlight the following:
What possible phishing attempts to your company could look like
What to do when a potential cyber threat is flagged
How to check URLs to see if they’re secure
How to create strong and powerful passwords and how often they should be changed
Today, the importance of being educated on potential cyber threats and knowing how to take proactive steps to avoid any sort of issue is an absolute must for companies and individuals. In fact, it’s becoming so crucial that cybersecurity is on its way to becoming one of the industry’s fastest growing sectors. More and more companies are looking for cybersecurity experts to help them protect their data and react in the event of a data breach.
For those unsure of what path they should choose in tech, cybersecurity is one that is going to experience extreme upward growth in coming years. So, what do you think? Is cybersecurity your next step?