HOW TO STAY SAFE ONLINE
With the ever-changing world of technology happening all around us, whether we like it or not, we find ourselves having to acclimatise to these changes or get left behind in the times.
Whether you’re a digital native (born into technology) or a digital immigrant (acquired familiarity with digital systems as an adult), we still all need to be careful when it comes to online security. We all think it won’t happen to us, especially me being a digital native; but I have been scammed, and it has compelled me to write this article to highlight the areas where most people are treading on thin ice when it comes to their personal details being exposed and falling into the same trap.
Secure Websites – How do you know if a website is secure before giving your details out? This can be anything from your name, address, to your card details. There are a number of ways to spot if a website is secure.The first way can be by checking the URL (website address). If the URL starts by https with an S on the end (not only http), that means that the website is secured by an SSL certificate. To get an SSL certificate, the company must obtain one through a validation process.The next way to check if a website is secure is by looking back at the URL to see if there is a padlock and/or if the URL is green. If this is the case, then the website you are on has the highest validation a website/organisation can possibly have.
Remember when you receive phishing/scam emails to check the domains for the above before giving any information out as phishing links mask themselves as secure websites, hoping to trick you into giving them your credentials.
Another way to save giving any information out is by paying online only by PayPal.
This is where most people go wrong, including myself when I got scammed. I was so eager for this product I would have bought it from anywhere, which I did (not using PayPal) and then £200 pounds vanished from my account from Chinese companies over the period of the next 3 days. Unless I know the website, I will never purchase another product online again without using PayPal! The benefits of PayPal are numerous. If a company are legit, they are going to be using PayPal. So, it already rings alarm bells if PayPal isn’t a payment option on their website. PayPal works by paying for all your online shopping through your PayPal account, which means you are entering NO bank details online on ANY websites. Everything goes through PayPal and only PayPal have your debit/credit card details. If you are not already using PayPal for your online shopping I highly recommend you create an account to protect yourself when online shopping.
Passwords – I know how cliché it sounds to say ‘use a different password for every account you have online’, but if you want to be extra safe this is your best way. However, I also know how hard it can be to remember all of your passwords if you have an abundance of online accounts! Another method I can suggest is sticking to maybe two or three passwords you will remember and spreading them out between your accounts. Keeping one for your highly secure accounts (internet banking, amazon account, emails etc.) , one for your mediocre accounts (social media etc.) and another one for stuff like gaming with next to no security required. This way if one password is hacked, at least not everything is jeopardised.
Saving Passwords – Don’t allow websites or mobile phones to save your passwords. The option is very tempting when looking at the many passwords above, but think about this – when you enable a password manager, it typically offers to import your password from the browser’s storage; if the password manager can do that, you can be sure some malicious software can do the same.
Phishing/Scam Emails – We’ve all heard of this one and think it will never happen to us, but the reality is that these emails are now so similar to the real thing its uncanny. Take these examples, an email from email@example.com looks pretty legit, but its fake. Don’t ever follow the links through or enter any personal information, you’re best ringing the company through their official website online by searching for them separately through your search engine (google, bing etc.) and asking them before proceeding any further. Also, hovering over links and emails on your email sometimes shows where the link actually leads to, as shown in the example below.
Downloading Content Online – Usually, downloading content online can also mean you are at the risk of downloading a virus. Always check the URL (the web address) to make sure that you are on the official website (check your padlocks and SSL certificates as explained earlier if you are making any purchases) and then check the file that they are asking you to download only contains what you want to download and no additional unknown content.
Click Bait – Careful on what you click. Drive-by download pages can cause malware to automatically download and infect your device. The same goes for links on social media sites, even in posts that seem to be from your friends. If a post seems unlike the style of your social media buddy, it could be a hack and cause viruses.
Browsing History – Your browsing history is a list of websites you have visited in the past. Web browsers keep track of your past activity for a reason, to track what you’re interested in. That’s why those annoying ad’s keep popping up! If you want to keep your browsing private, your internet browser should have a private mode, the ability to block cookies and cache in security settings.
Apps Requesting Permissions – Apps request access when you first open them. But you might end up granting some of them permissions that go beyond what the apps actually need. As an added bonus, if fewer apps are working away in the background, your phone can save on battery life. For example, if you download Skype, you have to grant it access to your camera and microphone or the app wont work properly. However, does it really need access to your other files like it requests? Other apps do the same; they trick you by making it seem that the app requires these things to operate, but they do not. Think about the app you have downloaded and what it needs to operate. Facebook is the same with any internal app permissions. If you take a quiz or sign into facebook through an app Facebook asks you to agree to permissions. Most people will just allow it without opening the permissions to look at them. If you open the permissions you will actually see that normally only one is a requirement and the other 2 or 3 that are ticked can be de-ticked if you prefer. All of this saves third party companies who you don’t know obtaining your information and possibly even your friends information through your friends list. See my example below, if you click on ‘edit the info you provide’ this should send you through to a page that tells you what is required and what you can de-tick.
Public WiFi – Keep to the basics of checking the news and messaging when on public WiFi. No online banking or shopping (anything that gives any personal details regardless of the public WiFi stating that it is secured). Even better, don’t connect! One of the biggest threats with free WiFi is the ability for hackers to position themselves between you and the connection point, so you end up sending your information to the hacker instead of the intended party.
I hope this has been informative as even youngsters like myself can fall into the trap of being scammed online, but these tips are sure to help.
Personal Assistant & Compliance Officer
Speed Financial Solutions
18 May 2018