Hackers and malicious organizations have dozens of ways to access your information, and if you are not adequately protecting your data, you will be an easy target.
Luckily, there are simple steps that anyone can take to keep themselves and their business safe. These range from free and simple to slightly more costly with more organization necessary, but they can all help you stay safe online.
Any time you create an account on a new website, you should use a different password. This might seem tedious and like too much work, but if one of your passwords is lost or stolen, you do not want the potential thief to have access to all of your accounts. Keep your list of passwords in a safe, non-digital location that only you can access. Some companies are using multi-factor authentication solutions, or MFA solutions, to promote better security. Multi-factor authentication creates multiple layers of security around your accounts including backup phone numbers and emails to verify your identity.
While not as prevalent as they once were, online scam artists still exist today, and knowing how to recognize them is vital to your online safety. Perhaps the most infamous scam in the history of the internet was when thousands of people received emails from a supposed Nigerian prince who asked for their money. By today's standards, it seems fairly obvious that the emails were fake, but many scammers today still use similar strategies. To start with, do not enter any bank details into a website that you do not have complete trust in, and never accept free items from sketchy popups. There are other scams, but these types are some of the most basic.
One of the most proactive steps you can take in preserving your online security is by using reputable antivirus software. This is one of the more expensive tips on this list because the best antivirus programs can be quite costly, with some charging several hundred dollars. Generally, the more expensive programs do better work, but they are often not necessary for the average internet user. Find a program that fits both your price range and your proficiency with browsing the internet.
Privacy settings are your friend online. Most social media platforms have individual privacy settings that allow you to track who can see your profile and how much of it they can see. You can choose to hide everything from everyone except your friends, you can choose to show everyone everything, or you can choose something in between that suits you the best. Your browser also has privacy settings, which you can usually find in the upper right-hand corner of any webpage. These settings allow you to control your browser history, cookies, and cached data to protect yourself from the websites you have recently visited.
Many public places, such as restaurants and coffee shops offer free, public Wi-Fi to their customers, and while it can be safe to use these public networks to an extent, you should not use them to handle any sensitive or personal data. Since you are sharing an open network with several others, hackers can use that opportunity to both see and steal the information you put into websites. You should never shop, use online banking, or log in to any websites while on public Wi-Fi, or you could be putting yourself at risk.
The internet is still a new frontier that many have not yet conquered. As time goes on, people will likely become more educated on how to stay safe on the internet, but hackers will evolve at the same rate. It is unlikely that the internet will ever be entirely safe, but if you know what warning signs to look for and how to be proactive in your online security, then you have a head start against malicious activity online.