Is the internet your safe haven?

We live in a digital world. And if you need any proof, look at how the pandemic has seen us shift from the normal way of doing things to migrating our day to day activities to the internet.

The current spike in internet usage across the globe is as a result of everyday tasks finding an expression online, from attending classes to work meetings and social hangouts. This has     seen us come up with creative ways to work, interact and entertain ourselves.

While the digital network facilitates global connection, it comes with its own drawbacks; one of them being security. In 2018, a study conducted by University of Maryland showed that for every 39 seconds, there is an attempt to hack any device connected to the internet. Simply put, being connected to the internet puts you at risk, regardless of whether you’re working for a big firm or you’re simply keeping up with your social life on Instagram.

As Dr. Bright Gamelli points out in his TEDx talk, it takes an average of five minutes to hack and get information from any device that is connected to the internet. Even if you’re not connected to the internet, it is possible for someone to gain access to your files from something as simple as connecting their USB to charge their phone. Imagine someone always shutting down your laptop every time you want to do something, scary right?

All the scary facts aside, the good news is that it’s possible to be safe on the internet. Of all the safe browsing habits you can adopt, here are our top 5:

  1. Start with the basics:

Security begins with you and the measures you put in place to protect yourself. One of the most fundamental ways to do this is by learning how to create strong passwords for your accounts. In a nutshell, avoid using information such as birthdays or your pets name since these are details that are in the public domain. Basic rule of the thumb is, be unique, be creative with your combinations and make it long.

Another good practice to adopt is avoid connecting to public wifi. As Dr. Gamelli points out, it’s very easy for a third party to monitor your activity and collect information about you. Free doesn’t always translate to good where security is an issue.

  1. Be careful about what you share:

The internet does not forget nor forgive. Social media has made it extremely easy for us to share details about our lives with others. The downside to this is that hackers have been known to make use of open source intelligence (information that is publicly available) to target attacks at individuals. Dr. Gamelli uses a simple illustration to show how a public search can allow a hacker to profile an individual, from where they work to what their interests are based on their social media feeds and the information used for identity theft. Before you click that share button, take time to think if this is information that you want out in the public domain.

  1. Scrutinize the information you receive:

When you get an email, an attachment or a link, be sure to give it a closer look before you click or open it. If it looks suspicious, delete it. Hackers have been known to embed viruses or spyware on the links that can download your information or grant them unauthorized access to your devices without your knowledge. 

  1. Be conscious of any fishy behaviour:

If you notice anything weird happening with your devices, for example navigation to  folders you haven’t accessed on your own, shut it down. It only takes a few seconds for someone to get access to your information. Shutting down your device helps in stopping or slowing down a potential attack. It’s important to reach out to an expert before you switch your devices on again.

  1. Update your devices:

When that update notification comes up, don’t cancel it. Allow your devices to update. Updates normally contain security patches that add an extra layer of protection to your devices. If you don’t have any anti-virus programs in your devices, get one from a reliable source, install it and make sure it’s running.

Staying safe on the internet allows us to protect ourselves as we enjoy the numerous benefits it has to offer each of us.

Happy Browsing! Keep Surfing and Stay Safe!

Watch Dr. Bright’s full talk here:

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