October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. This week’s theme is “Securing devices at home and work.” Today’s guest article is by Brian Adams, and first appeared on VPNSmash.
The internet is full of potential dangers. From children to the elderly, it appears that no one is safe. Among the most vulnerable are the senior citizens. Seniors often have the most to lose in dangers involving the internet. When scams occur, they are often devastating.
The internet doesn’t have to be dangerous, though. With the right tools and information, you can actively use the internet without fear of being targeted. To help with your internet experience, you should always have internet safety tips for seniors close by, guiding you when you have questions.
Terminology You Need To Know
Here is some basic terminology to make this guide easier to use and reference:
- Antivirus – Antivirus software is also known as anti-malware is a computer software program used to prevent, detect, and remove malware.
- Cloud – The cloud is the on-demand availability of computer resources, mainly data storage, without direct active management. The cloud is often used to describe data storage centers.
- Cookies – A cookie, also known as an HTTP cookie, is a small data package that is stored on the user’s computer while browsing the web. The information is used to remember useful information about the user or record browsing history.
- Firewall – A firewall is a security system on your network that monitors and controls the incoming and outgoing network traffic based on security rules that are predetermined by the system.
- Hacker – A hacker is someone who uses a computer to gain access to data that they do not have the authorization to access.
- Malware – Malware is any type of software that is intentionally designed to cause damage to computers, servers, or a computer network. There is a variety of malware types. Common names include Trojan horses, adware, ransomware, and spyware.
- Pop-up – Pop-up ads are a form of advertising online, usually in a small window. Some pop-ups can contain malware or viruses.
- Scam – A scam is a dishonest scheme or fraudulent action, usually to take money from someone.
- Virus – A computer virus is a code that can copy itself and corrupt systems or destroy data.
- VPN – A VPN is a virtual private network. A VPN allows the user to transmit over a public network as if operating on a private network. Masking IP addresses.
The Basics of Internet Safety
When it comes to being safe on the internet, there are different approaches you can take to keep yourself from being at risk. Starting with the basics of safety while using the internet, you can build a foundation that will provide you with the tools you need to stay out of a hacker or scammer’s grasp.
Username and Password
When you choose a username, there are some factors you need to take into consideration. The username you select for logging in or for email is your identity on the internet.
Before deciding on your username, go through these tips:
- When you pick a username, make sure that it is something you will be able to remember. If you choose something unusual for you or your personality, there is a likelihood you won’t remember it the next time you log in.
- Keep your username simple. Try to avoid using too many symbols or upper and lower case letters. The more complicated your username is, the longer it will take for you to use it on login pages.
- Avoid using identifying information in your username. You should NEVER use your social security number or date of birth within your username.
- Take your time picking your username. You may not be able to make changes once you begin using it, so don’t decide without thinking it over.
Your password should be the opposite of your username, impossible for anyone to crack. The stronger your password is, the less likely your accounts will be infiltrated by someone who should not have access to it. Nobody should be privy to your password except for you.
Here are some tips for your password:
- Use different passwords for every online account. Using the same passwords across multiple accounts can make you vulnerable to hackers.
- Avoid using names or special dates as passwords. Try not to use any combination that could be guessed easily by friends, family, or acquaintances.
- Try using syllables or acronyms as your password. Avoid using words that appear in any dictionary within any language. Try using the first letters of a familiar phrase as a part of your password.
- Mix up the combination of characters within your password. There should be a minimum of 8 characters in total. Use upper and lower case letters, numbers, and punctuation or special characters. Acceptable characters include &@!$#.
- Make sure you change your password on a regular basis. These changes should be done on your email and financial accounts, especially.
Along with keeping your password complicated enough to stay out of the hands of hackers, you also need to be able to remember it. You should not give your password to anyone, nor should you keep it written down where others can access it. There are third-party programs that can be used to help you keep track of these.
Since using a password alone is not always the safest bet, it is recommended to set up a two-set authentication to get into your accounts. Along with your password, a two-step authentication will include a second factor that you will need to provide as an identification. Usually, this consists of a text code being sent to your phone that you need to input when prompted or a biometric factor like a fingerprint or facial recognition. The two-step authentication helps you keep your information safe and only accessible to you.
Protecting Yourself When Using Social Media
Before we get into all of the antivirus and firewall talks, let’s discuss something a little more simple. Nowadays, most people have social media accounts. These accounts help family and friends exchange pictures, communicate, and share special events. Do you follow safe practices while you are on these accounts?
1. Use The Privacy Settings
Social media sites, like Facebook, provide privacy settings that can be manually adjusted by the account holder. These types of privacy settings keep your personal information away from those who should not be seeing it. The settings allow you to adjust what information is shown publicly, to your friends, or only yourself.
2. Practice Censorship
You should be particularly cautious when posting information on a social media account. Not everything should be posted or made public. If there is something that you want to post, take a moment to think about the effects it could have on someone else. Some relatives may not want their personal information shared online. You should also not be sharing every detail of your day, especially where you are going and what you are doing. Be sure to avoid posting about when you are going to be away from home or on vacation.
3. Choose Your Friends Wisely And Be Even More Message Conscious
You need to be selective of the people you are friends with on social media. Once added as a friend, they will have access to more personal information than a public user. The same applies to answering messages or talking to someone you do not know or are not friends with. These users could be trying to get information out of you or worse, trying to hack into your account. There are several ways that these “bots” infiltrate your account, copying them, and pretending to be you. They even have the ability to embed viruses.
4. Be Careful What You Click On or Share
Not everything on social media is correct. Some sites are used to lure you in to click on the link, which could contain malware or other malicious viruses. Viruses embed themselves into your computer, working itself through your information and retrieving it for hackers. When you share something like this, you are only spreading the problem to other users unintentionally.
5. If It Sounds Too Good To Be True, It More Than Likely Is
You have seen the social media ads, “Like and Share this post, then click the link to be entered to win a brand new car!” Can you imagine how many other people have seen this same ad? They liked it, shared it, and clicked the link. These posts are how identities are stolen. The only real exception to this is the local businesses that do giveaways. If you know the post is legitimate. You don’t have to worry so much. Always remember that if it is too good to be true, it most likely is.
Don’t Fall Victim to Scams
Seniors are one of the most targeted groups of people for scammers. Here are some of the most common scams to watch out for:
- Medicare or health insurance
- Prescription drugs (counterfeit)
- Homeowner/reverse mortgage
Several other schemes come up, but you should always have your guard up when on the internet. These schemes often come in the form of important emails, delivered to your inbox. The problem with these emails is that they look and read like the real thing. It can be hard to identify them at first glance, but with these tips, you should be able to spot an imposter.
- Incorrect URL address
- Requests for personal information
- The email address of the sender does not look right
- Photos with low resolution
If an email doesn’t look or feel right, the best thing you can do is call the company that it is associated with. This is extremely important, especially with the increasingly large number of Medicare fraud emails surfacing.
Internet Safety and Your Browser
There are different ways in which you can help protect yourself when you are surfing the internet. Antivirus software can be downloaded (in free and purchased versions) that protect your computer and hard drive from viruses and malware.
The browser that you use for your internet surfing has built-in security settings that you can adjust to help keep things like pop-up ads and unsecured sites blocked. Your internet and browser safety also extends to your email, storage, and sensitive information.
Use Antivirus and Firewall on Devices
Using both an antivirus software and a firewall on your computer can help protect your device from threats. The antivirus software will help you protect your computer files from being in the wrong hands. Firewalls are used to help prevent threats from gaining access to your system initially. Making sure you have an up-to-date version of both will help keep your computer safe against attacks.
The way that websites and online services gain information about you is by using cookies. You can help prevent these cookies from gaining access by looking at your browser’s settings. These settings can be adjusted to reject cookies, or you can clear them out.
Store Documents in the Cloud
All of your documents can be saved in one of two places (or both). Your computer’s hard drive is the place where most people keep their information and any saved or downloaded documents. Did you know that you have another alternative that can keep your information safe from hackers?
You can save your documents, even pictures, to the cloud. The cloud provides you storage that is not accessible by anyone but you. This storage is available through data centers over the internet.
Try Using A VPN
When you get a subscription for a VPN, it will help encrypt your data, making it next to impossible for anyone to decipher. VPN providers provide IP addresses to mask your own, making you anonymous on the internet. When you send emails or access web pages, your information is encrypted, usually by close to military-grade encryption levels.
VPN providers often offer special pricing opportunities, making VPNs widely available. VPNs are also very easy to use, making them a great solution to keep data secure, even over public networks.
Always Trust Your Gut
You know that most times your gut is right, the same should also apply when you don’t feel right about something on the internet. Don’t do anything online that you do not feel comfortable doing. Although there are safe methods to take payments, you should be cautious about who you give bank account info too. Make sure that when you are online, you are using all of the tips you have learned to remain safe.Share