Internet is a fun and exciting place. But some minds that frequent the online realm are filled with vicious intent. They are determined to steal your identity, max out your credit cards and blackmail you with weird photos you don’t remember ever taking.
These are all realistic dangers that many web surfers ignored until it was too late. I’ll assume that you want to reduce the likelihood of suffering a similar fate.
Luckily, there are a few very simple precautions you can take. These 16 safety tips for the Internet are recommended by top security experts. Implement these tips if you want to maximize your online security while surfing and shopping online.
1. Avoid doxing attempts by using a pseudonym
When posting comments or content on forums and social media (including Youtube) many users use their full name thinking that no one can hurt them. This isn’t a wise tactic if you’re posting anything controversial. There are many political activists and generally unpleasant people who might find your comments worthy of doxing.
Doxing: To search for and publish private or identifying information about (a particular individual) on the Internet, typically with malicious intent.
Let’s say you’re a Democrat who posted an angry comment about a Republican presidential candidate or vice-versa. Political and other disagreements online are getting increasingly punished by participants on the opposing side. Just recently a man on social media got doxed for sharing a controversial video of Nancy Pelosi (source).
The #1 number one safety tip for the internet:
Keep your identity private unless you have a good reason not to.Even better, refrain from creating disparaging content that could be met with fierce opposition. Easier said than done, but it’s definitely something to strive for if you’re concerned about online safety.
If you’ve been doxed, don’t worry, many have gone through the same thing. This Youtuber explains what to do in the aftermath of a doxing attack based on her personal experience:
2. Increase privacy settings on social media accounts
If you’re sharing personal information, photos, videos and other content online, consider if you need strangers to view it or not.
It’s very easy to increase privacy on a Facebook account, an Instagram account or any other for that matter. You can limit the amount of exposure you have on these platforms.
By doing so, you can prevent potential burglars from seeing that your house is probably vacant since you’re on a vacation in Hawaii, or that you have a brand new BMW that can be easily sold on the black market.
Increasing privacy on social media will also reduce the likelihood of any attempts at identity theft and blackmail that might otherwise occur.
3. Use a credit card instead of a debit card for shopping online
The difference between the two are the liability laws and policies. If someone steals your debit card or the card number and spends your money, the card issuer won’t do much about it. This is the protection you are guaranteed by law in case of debit card theft:
- Lost or stolen card reported before unauthorized transactions: zero liability.
- Lost or stolen card reported within two days: $50 liability limit.
- Lost or stolen card reported within 60 days: $500 liability limit.
- After 60 days: no protection.
The situation is much better with credit cards:
Under the FCBA, your maximum liability for fraudulent credit card transactions is $50. If you report your card lost or stolen before any fraudulent transactions occur, your liability is zero. Many credit cards promise zero liability for all fraudulent transactions. (source: NerdWallet)
In case you prefer to use a debit card, you can reduce the damage by keeping it at a low balance. So even if it gets stolen the thief will only be able to extract a small amount of money.
4. Use different login credentials (and write them down!)
Don’t use the same password and username for your Instagram, Facebook and any other website you happen to frequent. If a hacker figures out your password on one of these accounts they can use it to access all the others if you happen to be using the same login credentials.
It’s especially smart to use different login credentials on websites and forums that are less popular. While tech giants like Facebook invest a significant amount of money to prevent security issues, a small random forum about gold fish lovers probably doesn’t. Even so, all of these large websites are not 100% safe either, so make sure that you’re using a different password for them as well, or at least change a few characters.
Another thing I highly suggest is writing down the passwords in case you forget them. Although it’s not the end of the world if you do, because most websites provide a “retrieve password” option. Write down the login credentials either in an actual notebook or in a text document.
If you decide to use the second option, store the text document into a locked folder so that it’s not accessible if your electronic device goes missing or someone else uses it for whatever reason.
5. Don’t download content from shady websites
Shady, especially free adult-only sites often provide downloadable content. You might be thinking that this is your lucky day, but the video or a bunch of photos could be containing malware that can infect your computer. After all, you have to question the motives behind someone giving you stuff for free.
The same rings true for torrent websites. If you’re downloading a torrent file, at least ensure that it’s a reputable uploader like YIFI in the case of movies. Otherwise you’re risking a potential spyware or other malicious programs that can do things like spy on your keyboard and lead down a very unpleasant rabbit hole.
6. Install a professional anti-virus program
If you’re using Windows 7 or higher, there’s probably already an anti-malware called Windows Defender active on your device. And it gets updated on a regular basis.
However, a good anti-virus program can provide the maximum protection, which you rightfully deserve. If you browse shady sites on a regular basis or you have a serious business, use one of the 10 most highly rated professional antivirus programs:
- McAfee AntiVirus Plus
- Symantec Norton AntiVirus Plus
- Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus
- Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
- Kaspersky Anti-Virus
- ESET NOD32 Antivirus
- Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security
- VoodooSoft VoodooShield
- The Kure
- F-Secure Anti-Virus
7. Don’t use the “show password” option
When you’re in a public setting, and I would advise in general, don’t use the “show password” option while typing your password. This can be concerning if anyone has access to your screen, either through a spyware program, close physical proximity or a well placed camera.
Many freelancers especially abroad are using shared workspaces. While the cozy atmosphere can be helpful in getting work done, you have to pay extra precaution to safety of your equipment and the privacy of the information you’re typing in.
8. Cover your computer camera
Did you know that big shots like Mark Zuckerberg cover the camera on their laptop? Take a look at the photo and see for yourself.
A hacked camera can take unflattering pictures or videos of the user and his surrounding, which the hacker can use for blackmail or some other malicious purpose.
It could also provide live leaks for a chosen audience or even regular people online. I stumbled upon a website that has live leaks from private cameras all over the world. People watching TV at home, picking their nose, trying yoga for the first time or worse.
If you’re camera shy, cover that camera and make sure that this doesn’t happen. I keep mine covered all the time with a small piece of adhesive tape. If you’re using an external camera (USB connected or otherwise) it’s best to unplug it altogether when it’s not in use in order to prevent sound recording.
10. Delete e-mails with sensitive information
I highly recommend using different passwords for your emails as opposed to other online accounts. If you’ve used your email to make other accounts online, it can also be used by a hacker to find out the passwords on these accounts through the “retrieve password” option.
Let’s imagine a common e-mail security breach:
- A hacker breaks into your email.
- They see a “confirm sign up” email to a website or any other email linking to your other accounts.
- They go to the website and claim they forgot the password.
- The new password or reset password option is sent to the email account.
- They can now change the password and prevent you from entering the account while they’ve obtained full access.
So if someone hacks into your email, it can expose your entire online activity and do a lot of damage. For this reason it’s best to delete sensitive emails and move their content into a safe vault (such as a password protected folder). Along with maximizing the strength of your password (which I mention how to do later in this article).
11. Use two-factor identification when available
A huge number of websites and email service providers provide double or two-factor authentication. Which means that in case anything strange starts to happen with your account, it will require an authentication of the user from two sources before they can log in.
Usually the designated email address and a phone number are used the confirmed the authenticity. So in case the hacker has access to both, they will have a much harder time accessing your account. Gmail and Namecheap are two services that come to mind but there are many others that provide this useful option.
12. Keep a low balance on Paypal and connected prepaid card
Many hackers focus on Paypal accounts and there is a black market on the Deep Web with Paypal usernames and passwords. So keep a relatively low balance on your Paypal account. I suggest doing the same with any other online wallet such as Payoneer and Stripe.
If the account is connected to a prepaid debit card for payments and money transfer, keep the balance on that card relatively low as well. So in case anyone breaks into your account there won’t be much money readily available to spend.
13. Don’t insert sensitive info on websites without an SSL certificate
An SSL certificate has become very important for website owners. You can know if the website has it or not by the lock on the left of the domain name. You’ll also notice that it’s https:// instead of http://:
Google knows the importance of SSL certificates for preventing malware, which is why it rewards website that have one with higher rankings in search results.
14. Don’t use autofill for login and credit card info
Autofill is very convenient. Who has the time to type their credit card number for every Amazon Prime order? I get it, but guess what – if someone steals your laptop, mobile phone or any other device where you’ve used autofill, they’ll be able to use your login credentials, credit card number or whatever else is on autofill! So remove the current autofill suggestions from your browser.
This video tutorial will help with Google Chrome:
15. Perform regular antivirus program updates
Updates are annoying and can slow down the performance of a computer by taking away RAM power. But it’s just one of those things in life that you have to do or suffer the consequences.
If you don’t update your anti-virus program to its latest version, it won’t protect you from the latest security threats. It will still be good for the 99% of the threats that are out there, but that 1% could creep in unnoticed. If you postpone the updates for a long time this 1% will gradually increase.
Likewise, everyone HATES Windows updates. But they’re also essential if you want to maximize your security online, since Windows has its own internal antimalware program called Windows Defender and it’s actually pretty good.
16. Create LUNS passwords
LUNS is short for “letter, upper case letter, number, special character”. Always use a combination of these 4 elements to make your passwords stronger.
Example of a strong LUNS password: Medieval%Johnny2
Websites like Clickbank force their members to have a LUNS password because it’s way more secure than those that people typically use. For the same reason, they also have to use a new password, which improves the security of their account on itself.
Final Word: Safety Tips for the Internet
Browsing the web, being active in sharing your opinion, and making online purchases safely is not difficult. You can avoid hacking and doxing attempts by:
- valuing your privacy, instead of irrational exposure of your identity
- using multiple login credentials and LANS passwords
- installing a professional anti-virus program and regular updates
If you implement these 16 safety tips for the Internet, your online adventures will be more pleasurable and your mind at peace at all times. Hope this helps!