Computers allow us to instantly communicate with one another, learn more about virtually any topic of interest, and find a world of entertainment at our fingertips.
However, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it can be difficult to enjoy the many benefits of computers and the internet while remaining safe and secure. Luckily, there are three simple steps you can take to stay safe online.
1. Create strong passwords. Whether you’re logging in to your email, social media, or bank accounts, you need to use a strong and unique password. It might seem easiest to just use an easy-to-remember word like “password” as your password, but this can lead to many security risks because these first-thing-that-comes-to-mind passwords are easy for hackers to guess.
Follow these tips:
– Combine letters, numbers, and symbols (~, `, !, @, for example).
– Use uppercase and lowercase letters.
– Don’t use expected words like your pet’s name, your street address, your spouse’s name, etc.
Once you’ve come up with a strong and unique password, you need to do it again. And again. That’s because each password for every account should be unique. If a hacker gets into one account, you don’t want to give them access to all of them.
2. Download and regularly update antivirus software. You can download or purchase software to keep all (or most) viruses off your computer system. In addition to preventing viruses, if one does happen to infect your system, the software can detect and remove it for you. Antivirus software can also help you avoid nasty spyware, which collects data as you surf the web.
3. Use common sense. Antivirus software is a last line of defense, but maintaining a skeptical mindset will help you avoid a virus in the first place. First, never visit a website that is unrecognizable – whether it’s linked to in an e-mail or on another website. Second, never download a file that is not from a trusted person. Malicious websites and files are where many viruses wait to infect a computer. Also keep in mind that when a friend, family member, or colleague is hacked, their accounts often will automatically send out messages containing the virus. If their email looks suspicious (for example, containing a lot of uncharacteristic spelling errors or not “sounding” like them), send them an email to make sure the file or link is safe to open before doing so.
With these basic internet safety tips in mind, stay vigilant as you protect yourself from hackers. Your efforts to keep high-integrity passwords and up-to-date antivirus software will keep you one step ahead and allow you to enjoy peace of mind as you enjoy the internet.
Kimberly Barnes, a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University, is a web marketing consultant and kitchen chef. Her passion (aside from cooking) is helping organizations connect holistically to their constituents by way of social media engagement, content marketing and CRM. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.