6 Tips to Encourage Secure Surfing of the Internet
The internet is a relatively new phenomenon in the context of seniors’ lives. Add that to the fact that it is constantly growing and evolving, it can be downright impossible to stay on top of everything there is to know about surfing the web. And yet, many seniors find the internet to be an engaging and convenient place to connect with people, play games, research interests, and shop.
While the internet can be a valuable resource, it can also present some hidden dangers to people who are not caught up on the subject. Take this online quiz to see how cyber secure you are. Chances are, it will prompt a few questions about ways you can make sure you are safely interacting with people and websites online. Check out our tips below to help you surf the net with confidence.
1) Email safety
Email can be one of the easiest ways for scammers to target internet users. Sometimes a sender will model themselves as a business you use, sweepstakes, a charity, or even someone from your own address book. The important thing to remember when reading emails is that if it seems a little fishy, stop and think before acting.
The three biggest vulnerabilities in an email are links, downloads, and sharing information. Be sure you are 100% confident you know who the sender is before you click any links, download any attachments, or send any information, especially passwords or financial information.
If you aren’t sure if an email is legit, it is easy to double check. Don’t trust any contact information or details in the email at this stage, just close it and proceed from there. If you think you know the sender, don’t reply but send a new email to them asking if they sent the email. If it’s a business you work with, like a phone company or bank, look up their phone number online or in your records and ask them about the email. If these options don’t work, explain the contents to a friend or family member and get some feedback about if it sounds real or like a scam.
If you decide it’s friendly, respond as you wish. If it is deemed a fishy email, do not reply to the email and delete it immediately.
2) Password protect everything
Passwords are very important, and many websites and devices require them. Whether or not they are required, they are strongly recommended if you want to be secure. This includes your computer, phone, tablet, and any other device that connects to the internet as well as your apps and most of the sites you visit. Keep in mind, a lot of personal information ends up in these places and passwords help keep scam artists away from those details.
Not only is a password important, but you should also consider the strength of your password. Pick a password that includes capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers, symbols, and no recognizable words. Some sources even recommend picking a passphrase rather than just a word for extra security.
Also, be sure to utilize different passwords for different sites. That way, if one of your passwords is compromised, a hacker doesn’t then have access to all of your accounts. Keep track of them in a spreadsheet, notebook, or in another secure way since it can be hard to keep track of all those passwords.
3) Be careful of oversharing
Oversharing is in the eye of the beholder, and it seems people will share just about anything on the internet these days. Especially on social media where people are wanting to connect with friends and family in a meaningful way, sometimes it can feel like a safe place to put any, or all, of your thoughts.
Keep in mind, however, that these are very public places. Of course, there are security settings on sites like Facebook where you can choose who can see your information, and you should be using them. This is not a fix-all, though, and you should be wary of sharing any information in a public sphere regarding your address or physical location, your bank details, contact information, or plans to be away from home. Even too many personal details in the wrong hands can make you an easier target for a personalized scam.
4) Secure websites
Not all websites are created equal. The biggest thing to look for on any website you are visiting, especially when banking or shopping, is for the letters https:// at the beginning. It is the “s” that is key, so if you see the similar http:// it is a less secure site. You will also see a little padlock somewhere on the browser bar to know you are on a secure site. Stick with the secure sites to know you are somewhere that’s safe.
If you do find yourself on a less secure site and it is generating toxic pop-up ads, please quickly cancel out of the ads and the original web page.
Also, be sure to only put credit card information on reputable websites like Paypal or companies you are familiar with, even if the site looks secure. You only want to trust your financial details with a site that you can trust is using proper procedure when dealing with your secure information. When using a card online, make sure it is a credit card rather than a debit card. That way, you have more protection if your details were intercepted and your bank account won’t be exposed.
5) If it sounds too good to be true, it is
If someone is selling you a get rich quick scheme, congratulating you on your free vacation or winning the lottery, be wary. While it would be great if these things were true, more often than not they are emails or websites intending to lure you to hand over personal information for the purpose of fraud.
This is also often true of emails that are authoritative or that tug at the heartstrings. “Give us your updated card details or we will close your account now” or “Wire us the money that would save this kidnapped child’s life” are often scams. Follow the tips above on how to double check email validity before letting scam artists use emotion to distract you from what you know about cybersecurity.
6) Don’t forget to log out
This one is simple but easily forgotten. Log out. Log out of your email account, facebook, even your computer when you are going to step away from the internet. Leaving these things open, most especially on a shared computer or device, leaves you vulnerable. It’s just like locking the house before you leave.
These are just a taste of steps that can be taken to ensure internet security. If you would like to know more, there is a great resource for seniors that the Department of Homeland Security put together for your reference. The internet is just like the rest of the world: there is good and bad. Enjoy your use of the internet, just be sure to use a little diligence in your protective measures to make sure it remains a safe and enjoyable place for you.