Introduction to Online Safety

Introduction to Online Safety
The Siliconreview
07 January, 2021

Internet Safety Begins Here

A novelist once described the Internet as follows: ‘…cyberspace is a miasma of phantasms lurking in the shadows.’ It's certainly not a stretch of reality to concede that innumerable threats pepper the seemingly endless array of websites, URLs, applications, attachments, pop-ups, messages, and emails we are privy to on a daily basis. Internet safety is the #1 priority for users around the world.

The integrity of your personal information is sacrosanct; it deserves the utmost protection. The instant you connect through your ISP, data packets are flowing thick and fast to/from your PC, Mac, or mobile and the world wide web. Bad actors actively seek out ‘chinks in the armor’, hoping to infiltrate your personal information for nefarious purposes.

Identity theft is a growing global cataclysm. The Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Sentinel Network has reported increasing numbers in terms of fraud, and identity theft between 2015 – 2019. For example, the number of identity theft complaints, other consumer complaints, and fraud complaints filed in 2019 totaled 3,240,749.

In 2018, that figure was 3,113,974, and in 2017 it was 2,905,456. Such is the scope of identity theft and fraud complaints that it warrants our careful and undivided attention. Internet fraud is a major source of concern, given the complexity of hacks that we are subjected to.

What Types of Online Attacks are We Seeing & How Can We Guard Against Them?

  • Malware attacks
  • SQL injection attacks
  • Denial of Service attacks
  • Man in the Middle attacks
  • Phishing and Pharming attacks
  • Distributed Denial of Service attacks

Cyberattacks are an everyday occurrence for SMEs around the world. Home-based PC, Mac, and smartphone users are equally vulnerable, so it's important to adopt stringent security protocols from the get go. A proactive approach is best, given the pervasiveness of malware, viruses, trojans, and hackers.

A good place to start is a website safety check when you log on through your ISP provider. A website safety check instantly tells you whether the URL you may be clicking on, or navigating to, or testing, is safe and secure. Experts strongly advise users to perform a web security check on suspicious websites, unknown websites, or new websites, you may happen across.

Updating Your Operating System Software + Antivirus Software

Whether you're running OS X computers or Windows computers, you will want to stay ahead of the curve every time operating system software updates are required. Failure to update to the latest version of your operating system may result in your being hacked through loopholes, bugs, inadequacies, or faulty code that exists.

For example, in November and December 2020, Mac operating systems rolled out their Big Sur update i.e. Mac OS 11.0. For Windows users, the latest version was released in October 2020, known as Windows 10 version 2009. The code name for this operating system is 20H2, eponymously named given that it was released in H2 of 2020.

Antivirus software, anti-malware, anti-spyware, anti-Trojan, ad blockers, and other browser-based protection applications should always be updated and current. Failure to comply with these updating requirements may result in the complete inefficacy of the antivirus, anti-malware protections you have on site.

Premium antivirus software requires you to shelve out for a new subscription every year. Failure to pay leaves you vulnerable, given that you will not be protected against emerging threats, current threats, or code upgrades that may be implemented. In much the same way as you should not drive a car without insurance, given the risks on the road it is equally important not to operate a computer online without antivirus software.

Adopt the Commonsense Approach to Staying Safe Online

Anyone who has ever surfed the web knows all too well about the annoyance of username/password combinations. Nowadays, passwords can be generated automatically with alphanumeric password creators, and stored in your browser's memory, away from prying eyes. However, you should always ensure that your computer is locked when you're not physically present at your desk.

The integrity of your email accounts, website accounts, bank accounts, and other online resources is only as secure as the passwords you use to protect them. To this effect, implement 2FA (multifactor authentication) as often as possible to make it infinitely more difficult for hackers to access your accounts and steal your information. 2FA is possible by way of authenticators via apps on your smartphones and tablet, SMS messaging direct your mobile, or email authentication to provide verification.

Check the Safety and Security of your Wi-Fi Connection

Most of us use Wi-Fi at home, at work, or while we travel. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi can easily be hacked. If you have multiple connected devices on your network, you may be risking your own safety and security by allowing hackers access through your connected devices. Be sure that the IoT devices in your home have passed the litmus test in terms of online safety and security. Recall the threats presented by hacked cleaning robots and their cameras through Wi-Fi networks.

Always encrypt your Wi-Fi traffic with a strong password which is only available to devices connected on your network. Limit traffic to in-house IoT devices, that way hackers will not be able to access your Internet network.  If you are traveling, try to use your phone as your source of Internet connectivity, to prevent outsiders from hacking the contents of your MacBook, or iPad. Your personal hotspot is a great security resource when connecting to the Internet.

If you must use public Wi-Fi at an airport, hotel, library, or other facility, try to connect through a VPN to obfuscate the true IP address of your computer. You may even wish to connect through The Onion Router (Tor) to truly hide the origin of your connection to the Internet. Antivirus software, anti-malware, and applications such as MyWOT (Web of Trust) serve as powerful buffers against malicious attacks. By implementing all of the aforementioned security protocols, you will be able to resist the nefarious advances of hackers and enjoy a safe browsing experience.