October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which makes it a great time to brush up on ways to stay safe online. The internet has been part of most people’s lives for a few decades now, so you likely know the common tactics cyber thieves use, like phishing and ransomware. But unscrupulous individuals continue to find new ways to steal private information and take advantage of people. So here are four simple ways to stay safe online while you go about your everyday life.
Create Strong Passwords to Stay Safe Online
Devising unique and strong passwords for your various online accounts is one of the best ways to protect your information. Using the same password for multiple accounts is strongly discouraged. If that password gets into the wrong hands, many of your accounts could be compromised. A strong password includes a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Many sites have unique password generators, but you can also create your own and use a pneumonic device to help you remember it.
Staying Safe Online Includes Your Smartphone
With so much online activity done from the palm of our hands, it’s important to treat a smartphone just like a wallet. Your phone needs to be secured with all available options like a PIN, fingerprint, or facial recognition enabled. That way, if the phone is lost or stolen, you can prevent identity theft.
In addition, take the time to go into the privacy settings on each of your apps to limit the amount of information that is shared about you. Many of the apps you use every day are collecting data about everything from your billing info to your location to your interests. Smartphones have made our lives extremely convenient, but to stay safe online and limit information sharing, take the time to review privacy policies and limit what you can.
Beware of Online Money Transfer Apps
Online thieves love to take advantage of unsuspecting people - and peer-to-peer money transfer apps like Venmo, PayPal, and the Cash App have made it harder to stay safe online. One common trick is for someone to create a fake online profile and post something for sale on an online marketplace. Unsuspecting buyers pay a deposit via these apps, but then when they expect to receive the item, it never comes. The moral of the story: don’t purchase something online from a stranger unless they have verified reviews. Also, be wary of anyone who asks you to make an upfront payment before receiving goods.
Online Safety When Donating to Charity
Online charity and donation sites like GoFundMe have been a wonderful way to crowdsource money for all types of financial need. The trouble is, fraudsters take advantage of others’ hardships to steal money for themselves. Staying safe online means looking at these donation requests with a critical eye. Make sure the person who started the donation campaign is legitimate so you aren’t taken advantage of.
Cybersecurity is More Than Just Protecting Your Identity
Focusing on cybersecurity can keep your personal information protected - and that means you prevent the hassle and stress of identity theft. But when you think about how to stay safe online, it’s important to expand that idea and monitor the online choices you make every day. Stay vigilant, keep your passwords protected, and avoid interactions with people or companies that seem suspicious. Cyber thieves will always look to take advantage of you, but if you’re mindful of your online activities, you’ll be better able to stay safe online.