There’s a lot to celebrate about June: the end of the school year, Father’s Day, the start of summer vacations. And with so many great things to celebrate, it’s easy to see why most people overlook the festivities surrounding Internet Safety Month. While you’re free to celebrate this important event by throwing a party, there are some more useful ways to observe this important holiday.
Before you think about how to take part in the festivities, it’s important to know why you should. Why should you and your family practice good Internet safety habits? While the Internet is a great resource, it can also resemble the Wild West and not in a good way. With hacking, data breaches, phishing attempts, software viruses, social media data mining, cyberbullying and cyberstalking, and more taking place, your family needs to know how to navigate the Internet and stay safe. Identity theft, trolling, doxxing, and other malicious behaviors can all stem from incorrect Internet use.
So here are some great ways to focus on your internet safety, this month and all throughout the year:
- Check those passwords – It’s important to use strong, unique passwords, but it’s also important to change them up in case a hacker has accessed your account online. A strong password, one that contains letters, numbers, and symbols and doesn’t contain any part of your name, is vital to keeping your accounts safe, just as making sure those passwords are unique to each different account is important. Changing out your email, online banking, credit card login, and other sensitive accounts’ passwords each year in June can help you remember to stay on top of protecting yourself.
- Use a VPN – Public WiFi is great when you need it, but can be very dangerous if not used correctly. Using public hotspots can leave you open to account takeover, identity theft and other cybercrime and while you may think that this is something only a seasoned hacker could do, that isn’t the case and everyone needs to protect themselves from those who want to capture your personal information. Using a VPN hides the information you send over a public WiFi network so thieves never even know the information is there to steal in the first place. It is really important for anyone who is constantly connected and moves from hotspot to hotspot, but also important for anyone who logs into a coffee shop’s public WiFi even once.
- Updating and installing – If you use a web browser—and face it, who doesn’t anymore?—it’s important to make sure the security is tight by updating the browser. The same is true for your antivirus and antimalware software. Those programs can’t protect your computer and your stored data if you don’t update them against the latest threats. You do have antivirus software installed… right? If not, treat yourself to a Happy Internet Safety Month present right now!
- Spread the word about phishing – The next time that Nigerian prince emails you to ask for money, don’t just delete it. June is a great time to make people aware of these kinds of emails, so call your family in and explain what that is. Whenever you get one that pretends to come from a major corporation like a bank or from an entity like the IRS, share it with friends and family so they can be on the lookout for why this is a bogus attempt to nab your sensitive information. Just be sure to cut and paste the content of the email instead of forwarding it so you don’t spread their harmful links, and be sure to explain what phishing is and how to avoid it.
- Privacy settings – June is a great time to check up on your social media sharing settings since this is the time of year when families are having fun, taking pictures, and sharing them online. Make sure the geotagging settings are turned off in your family members’ smartphones to keep the coordinates from the photo’s location being embedded in the digital file, and make sure you’re not spreading all of your posts around the entire internet. At the same time, keep in mind (and be sure to tell any social media users in your household) that once you post something online, you have zero control over what someone else chooses to do with it. You might get to choose whom you share it with, but you do not control who those people can share it with!
All of this alarming advice can certainly make it seem like there’s very little to celebrate about the world wide web, but the Internet really is one of the greatest achievements of humankind. It connects the world in ways we might have never thought possible, but it can open us up to threats that we also never envisioned. By keeping up with your safety and security, you can make sure the Internet is a benefit, not a curse.
For more information on Internet Safety Month, you can visit the National Cyber Security Awareness’ Stay Safe Online website.