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10 Things to Look Out When Opening Yourself to the Online World

With the entire world seeming to shift to a digital landscape over recent times, it is imperative that people understand the consequences of their actions on the internet. Proper awareness and education enable people to be more aware of the various threats & risks that are present online, helping them identify what needs to be done in order to better protect themselves. This article takes a look at some of the dangers that are present on the internet and what you need to look out for when exposing yourself to the online world.

The History of the Internet in a Nutshell

The inception of the internet can be traced back to the 1960s when governments established them as a means of sharing information. However the first breakthrough of the modern internet is believed to be in 1983, when the new TCP/IP communication protocol was established, allowing several computers that were connected on different networks to communicate with each other.

Similarly, the history of ecommerce all began around 40 years ago – to facilitate the buying and selling of products and services via the internet. Boston Computer Exchange was the first ecommerce website to be launched with the intention of acting as an online platform for used computers. Since then, ecommerce has evolved drastically – with more and more people being interested in conducting business online.

Social media on the other hand, is considered to date back to 1997, when Six Degrees was launched as the world’s very first social networking website. However, the popularity of social media only took off in the late 2000s, when several platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter truly engrained themselves as part of our day-to-day lives.

How eCommerce & Social Media Provided a Land of Opportunity

As more and more users began using the internet, the usage of eCommerce & social media platforms increased heavily. It is evident that the number of digital buyers keeps increasing every year. Data from the eCommerce Worldwide report states that in 2020, over two billion people purchased goods or services online, and during the same year, e-retail sales surpassed 4.2 trillion U.S. dollars worldwide. Source

Similarly, the social media boom over recent years has affected our lives in countless ways. The Digital 2021 Global Statshot Report states that over half of the world now uses social media, with 4.55 billion people across the globe currently on social media platforms. This includes 400 million new users who have come online within the last year. Source

Internet Security – Prevention is Better Than Cure!

Since there are various different cybersecurity threats that you could face online, it is important to identify what some of them are and figure out what to do about them. Below are some of the dangers of the online world, that you need to be mindful about:

Computer Viruses:

These are generally small programs that are created with a malicious intent, with the aim to alter the way your computer operates. There are several different types of viruses, each programmed to do something harmful – resident viruses, browser hijackers, overwrite viruses, web scripting viruses, file infectors, network viruses and so much more.

Hackers:

These are individuals who try to gain unauthorised access to your computer & data, They operate to crack codes and retrieve your usernames & passwords, to steal your money from online accounts and more, with the ill intent of misusing sensitive data.

Phishing:

These are cyber attacks in the form of fraudulent messages that have the ability to trick users into believing that it is something that it’s not. From email phishing to social media fishing – this typically happens when criminals try to pose as a trustworthy source of information, in order to steal your personal information.

Identity Theft:

This occurs when someone on the internet steals the personal or financial information of another information and uses it for their own financial gain. In most situations, it is data such as their name, identifying number and credit card number that are stolen.

10 Tips on How to Stay Safe on the Internet

Given the number of internet threats that are out there, it is vital that you take measures to protect yourself. Below are a few tips for personal cybersecurity:

  1. Keep Your Software Up-to-Date: Software updates are important because they contain fixes and repairs to any security loopholes that cyber criminals could potentially take advantage of. Ensure that your software and operating systems are running on the latest version in order to protect yourself from threats.
  2. Invest in Good Anti Virus Software & a Firewall: Good antivirus software such as Kaspersky, Avira and Norton protect you against malicious viruses and hacker attacks, thus safeguarding your data and important private data from external threats. Similarly, a firewall also provides network security by blocking threats from suspicious sources.
  3. Use a Strong Password & Keep it Safe: Having a password is not enough – you need to ensure that it is strong! Use a lengthy password containing a mix of upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers and special characters.
  4. Take Advantage of Two Factor Authentication: Having two factor authentication provides an additional layer of security by asking users to reconfirm their identity. This prevents hackers from accessing unauthorised data by simply hacking a password alone.
  5. Be Wary of Suspicious Emails, Phone Calls & Flyers: There are many ways that phishing attacks attempt to coerce personal data and information from victims. The most common way is by means of emails, phone calls or flyers that pretend to be something they are not and persuade users into disclosing their information.
  6. Ensure Your Personal Identifiable Information is Protected: Your PII data is very important and you need to take extra measures to ensure that they are kept extremely secure. This can include highly confidential data such as your financial information such as bank details and credit card data, medical records, identification numbers and so on.
  7. Use Your Mobile Devices Securely: Your mobile phone contains a treasure trove of information and it is important to ensure that it does not fall into the wrong hands. Make sure your phone has a screen lock, passcode, SIM card lock and that you protect sensitive data and restrict bluetooth use.
  8. Don’t Use Public WiFi: Public WiFi networks are not very reliable as they are typically shared amongst a large number of strangers. This makes it easier for cyber criminals to gain access to your data as they are using the same network as you.
  9. Backup Your Data Frequently: Data loss can be devastating and can have lasting effects especially for a business. In order to prevent this from happening, it is important to have a secure archive of important information that you update regularly – so that you can always access it – should you lose your main data.
  10. Review Your Accounts for Suspicious Activity: Keep an eye on your accounts for anything that strikes you as out of the ordinary – be it your email accounts, bank accounts or online shopping accounts. Always be mindful of how many devices are connected to an account at a given time and that you revoke any unauthorised access.

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