Digital Safety: 10 Rules to Protect Yourself Online
The internet can be a treacherous place. One wrong click or download and your personal information could be in the hands of cybercriminals before you even realize what happened. Protecting yourself online is more important than ever in today's digitally connected world.
There are countless threats behind every webpage and app, and you can become a victim if you aren't careful. Cybercriminals have become incredibly sophisticated in how they steal personal data, hack banking and social media accounts, and hold people's information for ransom. No one is immune, as children, seniors, businesses, governments, and more have all fallen victim to attacks.
Protecting yourself online has become absolutely crucial. But armed with the right knowledge, you can avoid becoming an easy target. This article outlines ten essential rules you should follow to keep your data secure and maintain your digital safety in today's treacherous online landscape.
Rule 1: Create Strong and Unique Passwords
Security breaches have become a regular occurrence, and a password is the easiest barrier you can place between your sensitive information and online intruders. These days, it's not enough to have a password. As someone who values their digital safety, you need a complex password that is impossible for people to guess and for password-breaking software to hack or bypass. This is important because, according to 2023 data from GoodFirms, 30% of users have experienced a data breach due to weak passwords.
Businesses are also helping their customers stay more secure by ensuring their passwords contain at least one uppercase letter, at least ten characters, one number, and one special character. It is especially common to see this type of password requirement in the banking and fintech industries.
Besides creating a strong password, it is also important to ensure that your password is unique. This means that you should not use the same password for multiple accounts. This reduces the risk of exposure in case a hacker somehow gets access to one of your login details. In that case, only one account is affected, not all of them.
One problem people have with creating unique passwords is remembering all of them. You can avoid the trouble by using password managers to store your passwords and automatically fill them in when you log in to an account. Besides that, they also suggest strong passwords. With these managers, the only password you need to remember is your master password to access the password management platform.
Rule 2: Multi-factor Authentication
Multi-factor authentication (MFA), or two-factor authentication (2FA), is a cyber-security protocol that demands two separate forms of identification from the user before granting access to an account or system. The forms of identification include something you have, something you know, or something you are. These could be biometric information like fingerprints or facial recognition, a physical entity like a token or passport document, or a unique code sent to your mobile phone or email.
Many people avoid activating MFA because the extra steps and friction it adds make it harder to access their accounts. However, the added security that MFA provides makes it more than worth it. A 2023 research by Zippia reveals that MFA has a high success rate—it blocks 99.9% of modern automated cyberattacks and stops 96% of phishing attempts.
With MFA, even if a hacker somehow obtains or bypasses your password, they cannot access your account without further identification. This complex process often discourages them and puts an end to their attacks. Many popular platforms like Google, Facebook, HubSpot and banking services offer MFA security measures.
Rule 3: Be Wary of Suspicious Emails and Phishing Attempts
Phishing is a technique hackers use to trick individuals into revealing their personal information, like passwords and banking details, card details, or social security numbers. These cybercriminals disguise themselves as trustworthy entities, like banks, government agencies, or well-known companies, and send fraudulent emails or messages to their targets.
Some phishing red flags to watch out for include:
Phishing Red Flags to Watch Out For
While sophisticated phishing attempts can look legitimate at first glance, most phishing emails still exhibit tell-tale signs that all isn't as it appears. Below are several common red flags you should look out for:
Poor grammar and spelling: Although not always a clear-cut indication of a phishing email, grammatical errors and odd phrasings are common in phishing attempts.
Unfamiliar greetings: Emails that address you as 'User', 'Member', 'Account Holder', or other generic salutations instead of your actual name should raise suspicion.
Request for personal information: Genuine organizations typically don't ask for your sensitive information via email, except in cases of customer support.
Unexpected attachments: Once opened, these seemingly innocent files can unleash malware, ransomware, or other harmful programs onto your device.
Sudden and urgent requests: Phishing emails often create a sense of urgency to prompt you to take immediate action. They may claim that your account has been compromised or that you need to update your information urgently. Take a step back and think before acting hastily. Legitimate organizations typically provide clear instructions and give you time to respond.
Suspicious email addresses: Take a closer look at the sender's email address. Phishing emails often use email addresses that are similar to legitimate ones but with slight variations. For example, instead of "[email protected]," it might be "[email protected]." These small differences are easy to miss, so double-check before taking any action.
Preventative Measures to Take Against Phishing
Prevention is better than cure, as the popular saying goes. Here are some preventative measures you can take to protect yourself against phishing.
Always verify the sender's identity by cross-referencing their email address with official sources or contacts.
Only click on links or download attachments if you're sure that the email is legitimate. If you're unsure, it's better to err on the side of caution.
Set up email spam filters that help catch phishing emails before they ever reach your inbox.
Rule 4: Keep Your Devices and Software Updated
Keeping your devices and software up-to-date plays a significant role in maintaining online safety, as regular updates often include fixes and patches to security vulnerabilities.
When companies find loopholes in their app that fraudsters exploit, they release updated versions to rectify them. Failing to update the software means that you remain vulnerable to cyber attacks. A Voke Media survey revealed that 80% of companies who had a data breach could have prevented it by performing necessary updates on time. Microsoft's Security Intelligence Report also showed that most of its customers are breached via vulnerabilities that had patches released years ago.
Besides addressing loopholes, cybersecurity professionals also release updates when they detect new strains of malware and cyberattacks.
Rule 5: Use a Secure Internet Connection
Using an unsecured internet connection is like leaving your car or house door open for anyone to come in.
Private networks, like those in houses and workplaces, are typically secured with encryption protocols that scramble the data being sent over the network, making it unreadable to anyone without the correct decryption key. However, public Wi-Fi networks often lack these security features. This means that cybercriminals can easily connect to the public network to send malware across the network or intercept and manipulate the data flowing through it. Kaspersky analyzed data from approximately 32 million Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide and discovered that 24.7% do not use encryption.
If possible, it's best to avoid public Wi-Fi completely. However, in cases where you have to use a public network, you can stay safe by pairing it with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and there are even free VPN options available. VPNs help keep you secure by:
Creating a secure channel between your device and the internet
Encrypting your data from prying eyes looking to intercept it
Protecting you from cyberattacks
Masking your IP address, making it difficult for attackers to track your online activities and location
Rule 6: Be Cautious with Personal Information Online
A general rule I follow is to share little or no personal data about myself online, particularly details like date of birth, residential address, BVN, and bank information. Fraudsters who target people often play the long game of gathering their target's personal information from different online platforms. The fraudsters do this until they have enough data to perform identity theft, financial fraud, and other related cybercrime.
A common trend to watch out for is "get-to-know-you" questions that are popular on social media platforms like Twitter. While these questions may seem harmless, they are an easy way for cybercriminals to farm for personal data. A seemingly harmless piece of information revealed today can be combined with more data down the line to create a comprehensive profile that can be used for harmful purposes.
Rule 7: Regularly Back Up Your Data
Much of our lives now exist online, from important documents and cherished memories to personal information and financial records. Therefore, it is important to prioritize our digital safety by regularly backing up our data. This helps prevent data loss in cases of hardware failure, malware attacks, accidental deletion, or even natural disasters. Losing valuable data can be a horrible experience. However, you can avoid that by performing regular data backups.
Here are some tips for regularly backing up your data:
Use an external hard drive or cloud storage service to create backups of your important files like documents, photos, videos, etc. Back up any data you don't want to risk losing.
Automate backups so they happen on a schedule without you having to remember. Many backup services allow you to set backup intervals. While there are no standard intervals for performing backups, data from Backbaze shows that 11% of users create backups weekly, 20% create backups monthly, 13% create them yearly, 26% create them less than once a year, and 20% have never backed up their data.
Store backups in multiple places in case one fails or gets damaged. Have both a physical backup, like an external hard drive, and a cloud backup.
Encrypt your backup files for extra security in case the backup device gets lost or stolen. This prevents unauthorized access.
Test restoring from backups periodically to verify they worked properly. You don't want to find out too late that a backup was corrupted.
Rule 8: Use Antivirus and Firewall Protection
Antivirus software is designed to protect your PC, smartphone, and other devices from viruses, trojans, worms, and ransomware by detecting and removing them. Antivirus programs detect 350,000 viruses every day.
On the other hand, firewall protection helps control the data traffic flowing to and from your device. It acts as a gatekeeper and only allows safe data to pass through while keeping hazardous data out. Firewalls are so crucial for digital safety that 30% of companies have over 100 firewalls on their network.
Antivirus software and firewalls should be updated, as security providers continuously tweak their software to keep up with the latest digital threats.
Rule 9: Use Secure Websites
Secure websites implement various measures to protect users from cyber attacks. These measures include encryption, secure socket layer (SSL) certificates, and other security protocols. Accessing websites with these security features can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to hacking attempts, data breaches, and other cyber attacks.
You can know if a website is secured by checking if a padlock symbol exists in the URL bar and ensuring that the website's address starts with "https://" instead of "http://". These indicate that the website has an SSL certificate and is encrypted.
Always ensure that the website you are on is secure before entering any sensitive information. Thankfully, website owners take data encryption seriously, seeing as there are over 271,118,839 SSL certificates on the internet.
Rule 10: Educate Yourself on Online Scams and Cybersecurity Threats
Many cyber attacks would have been unsuccessful if the victims had the right knowledge and knew how to spot the attacks. For example, 36% of ransomware infections happen due to a lack of cybersecurity training. While they do eventually learn, this learning is born from experience. At this point, the attack has been successfully carried out, and the harm done.
More and more online scams are popping up as cybercriminals try to steal people's personal information and money. They keep finding new, sophisticated ways to hack into devices and systems to access private data. These scams and cyber threats are constantly changing and getting more advanced.
That's why anyone who uses the internet needs to keep up with the latest developments and threats. Make time regularly to read or learn about new phishing scams, malware, dangerous websites, other online risks, and the latest preventative measures to employ. The more you know, the better you can spot scams and avoid hacks.
In closing, remembering these vital rules is crucial for protecting yourself online. The internet is invaluable but also poses threats. By taking measures like using strong, unique passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, backing up data regularly, and updating software, you can guard against cybercriminals.
Above all, educate yourself on evolving online scams and cybersecurity threats. Your informed vigilance is a powerful tool against risks. You are responsible for your online safety. Avoid common password mistakes, utilize privacy settings, and practice secure behaviors to reduce threats.
Cybersecurity is constantly changing, so stay aware and adapt security as new dangers emerge. Use this guide as a reference to maintain vigilance. As technology advances, following these rules will help keep you safe.
Start using Dojah for all your business needs
Subscribe to our newsletter
Get notified when we publish new stories, announcements, products and more. Subscribe to receive updates.