3 Easy Ways to Stay Safe Online

3 Easy Ways to Stay Safe Online

For the past 12 years, people and organizations all over the country have been celebrating an important event each fall, one that is designed to make sure everyone has the tools needed to stay safe online. National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) provides information and an increased understanding of the potential dangers of online activity.

But we don’t have to wait for October to begin taking a few simple steps to help protect ourselves from danger on the Internet. Everything from online shopping to protecting your mobile devices can help protect against identity theft, cyberbullying, and other types of cyber crimes.

1. Online Shopping
When shopping online, always check the web address bar for the https designation, located before the website name of the website, which indicates it is a secure site. You can feel more confident posting your private information or financial data at checkout. Always know who the vendor is, too, and if you’re unsure of the site’s trustworthiness, think twice about shopping with that vendor. Be aware of the site’s privacy policy—meaning how they’re going to store, use, or sell your contact information—as well as their shipping and returns policies.

2. Mobile Device Know-How
Protecting your sensitive data on your phone or tablet is also very important. Start by only purchasing a device from a reputable dealer or service provider, and avoid the lure of buying a cheap, used “jail broken” device that lets you take it to any carrier you wish; these devices have been found to have issues with maintaining security. Passcode-protect all devices to help slow down a thief and keep him from accessing your sensitive information through your email, social media, and other apps. Speaking of apps, it’s important to read the fine print before you install them, and to know exactly what permission you’re giving the app developer or your service provider.

3. Secure Connections
As for websites and Internet connections, make sure you’re only connecting over secured Wi-Fi; if you need to use a public hotspot, you can use a VPN to hide your activity, or limit it to less sensitive activities. Wait until you’re connected over a secure network to access banking, your credit card website, or other important accounts. If you connect to the Internet and find yourself on a website that doesn’t look very trustworthy, leave the site immediately.

Developing good online habits—no matter how or where you connect—can put a lot of the control back in your hands when it comes to avoiding cyber crimes. Being prepared now will help you down the road when, not if, a cyber criminal goes after your information.

Eva Velasquez is president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center.