10 of My Favorite Internet Safety Tips
Happy June, folks, or, as all the cool kids are saying, happy Internet Safety Month! In the spirit of keeping ourselves—and our families—safe this summer and beyond, I decided to round up 10 of my favorite Internet safety tips. They’re quick, easy, and important. So, without further ado, let’s begin:
10 Internet Safety Month Tips
1. Enable passcode features (a pin or pattern) on all mobile devices.
Imagine forgetting your phone somewhere (eek). Then imagine someone finding your phone and having access to everything (double-eek). If a passcode, pin or pattern is enabled, this makes it nearly impossible for strangers to get into your device—and things like personal photos, work emails, social accounts, oh, and that Amazon app that makes is soooo easy to make purchases with the push of a button. So, set that up, and it’ll be one less thing to worry about. More on locking down our devices in No. 6 of “7 Simple Ways to Protect Your Digital Privacy” via New York Times.
iPhone under Settings > Face ID & Passcode or Touch ID & Passcode
If you’re not an Apple user, learn how to do it for your device via a quick search. 2. Disable automatic connections to public wifi.
2. Avoid public Wifi and instead use data if possible, or opt for a VPN.
Unlimited data plans rock, especially when they keep us off of public wifi networks. VPNs also rock because they keep us safe on public wifi networks. More on how and why hackers can attack WiFi networks, ways to stop wifi hackers with VPN and more in, “How does a VPN protect you on public Wi-Fi?”
iPhone under Settings > Wifi > Turn OFF “Ask to Join Networks”
If you’re not an Apple user, learn how to do it for your device via a quick search.
3. Get identity theft protection.
Millions of people are impacted by identity theft. Why? Things like data breaches, computer viruses, and other cruddy stuff that, in the end, mean identity theft protection is a good idea. While there are alternatives to commercial Identity theft protection services, I’m a true believer in having some form of insurance. They can monitor a change of address, personal info like SSN, children’s SSN, etc. Not sure where to start when it comes to finding the right option for you? SafeHome.org lists several good ones in “Identity Theft Protection Companies Ranked and Reviewed.”
4. Secure your wifi router.
This is a super easy thing to overlook ... but it's important. Look on your wireless router. See that little sticker with the SSID and key/passphrase? If that’s still your security key, change it. That’s the default and is meant to be updated. Make sure your wifi router is as secure as possible.
5. Review your privacy and security settings.
From search engines and social accounts to email and web browsers, there’s no end to the privacy settings that many of us rarely think to check … and then recheck. Take time to manage your settings. Want to view or change your privacy and/or security settings, but aren't sure where to find them? Use these handy-dandy direct links from Stay Safe Online, Powered by the National Cyber Security Alliance to update your privacy settings on popular devices and online services.
6. Consider utilizing parental control or monitoring apps for children's technology.
As I’ve shared, monitoring children's technology, in one form or another, is an essential part of modern parenting. There are a lot of good parental control and monitoring options out there, as ConsumersAdvocate.org notes in “10 Best Parental Control Apps of 2019.” In case you’re interested, I’m a fan of Bark. Feel free to sign up for a free, one-week trial and receive 20% off Bark by signing up here: https://www.bark.us/signup?ref=RHH2N8X.
7. Search yourself—and your family members—online.
Discover what information is publicly known about you. You can find out how to search yourself online via SANS Security Awareness. The process is called OSINT, which is a fancy way of saying Open Source Intelligence. Try it out. You may be surprised at what you find. FYI: Cyber attackers are using these very same tools and techniques.
8. Get a password manager.
Passwords can be a pain to remember. If you have the same password—or a variation of the same one—for multiple accounts, or maybe you're in the habit of clicking "forgot password," get yourself a password manager. PC Magazine has a whole list of the best password managers for 2019 from which to choose.
9. Check if you have an account that has been compromised in a data breach.
*Spoiler alert: It’s very likely you do have a compromised account (or more). Trust me. Check via Have I Been Pwned (HIBP). It’s super simple and FREE. Don’t forget to sign up for alerts via their “Notify Me” tab at the top.
10. Set your devices to update automatically.
Make sure you have the latest security software, web browser, and operating system to defend against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Don't forget that mobile phones and tablets need updating too!
iPhone, go to Settings > General > Software Update > Automatic Updates and turn “ON” those automatic updates.
To learn how to do it for your security software, web browser or operating system, do a quick search on it, and you’ll find tons of info.
Every effort helps
There are so many ways we can stay safe online. And while it may feel a bit overwhelming trying to comb through all of the things we need to do to best protect ourselves and our families online, don’t lose sight of the fact that every effort helps. Do one thing listed here. Do all 10 tips listed here. Just do something.
Here’s to doing everything we can to keep ourselves and our families safe. And here’s to safe and thoughtful digital parenting!