Tomorrow is Safer Internet Day. You must know you can make your own Internet experience a lot safer without big technology or tough measures. All it takes is just a couple of good habits.
On Tuesday we will celebrate, for the tenth time in history, a new, yet important holiday – Safer Internet Day. First introduced back in 2004, it serves to remind people about how the Internet can be like the Wild West. So here are a couple of rules to make this environment more civilised. Unfortunately, a 100% safe Internet (as it is with the real life) is impossible, so the name of the holiday – Safer Internet Day – is quite precise: it is all about making the Internet a safer place. You shouldn’t expect governments, international regulators, Apple or Google to take over this mission. Each of us shares this responsibility. You need to know that you can make your own Internet experience a lot safer without big tech or tough measures. It takes just a couple of good habits.
1. Love your updates
Enable automatic updates in all applications you use daily. First of all, take care of your operating system, Web browser, mail clients and instant messengers. Also keep in mind PDF readers, Flash player and Java. All should be done on a single occasion. It takes just three minutes, but it strengthens your PC’s protection against viruses and malware multifold.
2. Mind ‘network hygiene’
You wouldn’t start eating a meal without washing your hands – so why wouldn’t you apply the same habits to your PC? Don’t use a ‘dirty computer’. If it is your own machine, it has to have an up-to-date and reliable antivirus software installed. The more the better here – consider an end-to-end solution like Internet Security. If you use someone else’s PC, you’d better check beforehand to see whether the protection software is installed and antivirus databases are updated, or when the latest check was performed. If it does not look like these have been done, run a five-minute scan before typing in your passwords to your corporate email, online banking tool or social network sites. What if a keylogger sends this information to cyberciminals?
3. Your smartphone IS a computer
Repeat this mantra more often. It is not about preferring a smartphone to a PC; it is the mere understanding that smartphones can launch software, including malware. That means all protection measures – enabling updates, antivirus protection, restriction of untrusted software installation – are equally crucial for a smartphone as they are for a PC. Also, you receive bonus capabilities from a mobile protection suite: it is also used as an anti-spam and anti-phishing tool and helps to locate a lost or stolen phone.
4. Dangerous links
Actually, web links were designed to make life easier: with them at your disposal, you could land on a page you need in just one click. Unfortunately, criminals make good use of links, directing you to malware-populated websites or exposing you to ransomware. There is one way to avoid it. It doesn’t mean you should be able to tell a good link from bad link just by looking at them. If you receive a link via email, instant or text message, don’t click on it unless you asked for it to be sent to you. A good example to illustrate this case: if your bank sent you an important notification and offers a ‘click to read’ option, don’t click on it. Just launch the Web browser and enter your online bank manually.
The second type of dangerous links is alarmist, provocative or tempting banners. There is an iron-clad rule: website images and banners like ‘your PC is under threat’, ‘update the player’, ‘you have won a prize’, ‘make your PC work faster’ and the like are nearly 100% fraudulent.
5. Use a password manager
It’s too hard to remember passwords to dozens of websites that require registration. It all comes down to you using the same password all the time. By the way, the most popular password last year was, predictably, 123456. In order to avoid the miserable fate of making yourself one more case of bad statistics, use a special application that is capable of creating unique passwords to many websites, ‘inserting’ them into required fields and storing all credentials in a secure database. The only password you need to remember is the one to the application itself. By the way, we do not advise using a default browser-based password manager – it is possible to read the stored passwords in many of the browsers.
6. Learn to report
Online threats are not limited to malware and fraud. Bullies, provocateurs, forum ‘trolls’ are none the better. Teenagers and children are quite vulnerable to this kind of threat, as they are mostly unable to efficiently deflect verbal attacks or ignore the matter. But you can guard against this sort of thing without plunging into heated discussions or getting into nasty arguments about someone’s mother. Almost any forum, social network or chat has a ‘block user’ button, as well as ‘report spam’ or ‘report abuse’. Use them without hesitation: firstly, report an abusive commentary, secondly, report the attacker to disarm him. The same applies to cases when someone demonstrates explicitly provocative content, such as violence, drugs or the like.
7. Talk to your kids. And your parents
All the rules we cited above are simple and easy-to-use, but at times they are not obvious to certain groups of users, especially those lacking PC proficiency: children and seniors. That’s why you should remind them of the abovementioned recommendations. Besides teaching them the rules of ‘PC hygiene’, helping to protect themselves against malware and cybercriminals, it would be good to plant the idea that not everything said on Internet is true. All information should be checked. It takes just a quick search on Google or Bing to find out whether Barack Obama is divorcing, whether ocylococcynum is efficient for flue treatment or whether donor blood is still needed for a little boy (such messages remain up for months, often after the problem has been long solved).