We’re connected like never before—you’re reading this article via a vast and complex network of servers and computers linked by everything from fiber optic cable to satellite transmissions. Electronic media, in various forms, dominates our waking hours and connects us with new people and ideas from across the globe. It’s a wonderful time to be alive.
But it’s not without its pitfalls. This new connectivity has opened up some new dangers that were unheard of forty years ago. Staying safe online—the fine art of self-defense in cyberspace—is now an everyday concern for most of us. While there’s a lot to be said, here are some ground rules to get you started:
Control who can see your online information.
This will vary a bit from medium to medium, but in general, keep your privacy settings at maximum, only add new friends or share information with people you know, and be very careful in avoiding sharing personal information with the broader web.
Set up a separate email account for online activities.
Don’t use your primary email account for your social media or other online things—it’s too easy to trace it to you. Set up a separate, free email account using a handle that doesn’t reflect any personal information and use that for your social media, online shopping, forum use, etc.
Use good passwords and firewalls.
We’re several decades into the Information Age, and people are still using passwords like “Password02”. Don’t make that obvious mistake; take the time to set up a good, secure password. Use different passwords or variations thereof for different accounts and devices. Make sure your home wifi network is protected by both a good password and a solid firewall. I also recommend using a password vault like LastPass or other similar services that make sure you are using complex passwords only once, and what’s better is you don’t have to remember them.
Be careful with Wifi.
In addition to keeping your own network secure—don’t give that password to just anyone—don’t log your devices onto any old network, no matter how convenient. Only use trusted, reputable ones and keep your data secure. If you have the choice of connecting to an untrusted wifi or tethering to your phone’s hotspot, go with the hotspot since that will be much more secure than a public wifi. If you must use an untrusted wifi network, make sure you are using a VPN which will secure your connection. These services are cheap and easy to use. The one we recommend is VYPR VPN.
Watch those check-ins.
Various apps allow you to either tag or announce your location. While this can be useful, I encourage you to use it sparingly. You’re letting the world know where you are and that you’re not at home. This creates vulnerabilities, so be careful with it. And if you’re actively dealing with online harassment or stalking, cut it out altogether.
Don’t announce your travel plans.
Thieves use digital media too. Don’t tell them when you’re going to be away from home.
Talk to your kids.
It’s part of your responsibility as a parent to keep your kids safe online. Monitor their usage and have a frank conversation with them about online safety.
There’s a lot more to talk about, and I promise you that we’ll be writing many, many articles delving into this in more detail. These suggestions will get you started and go a long way to ensuring your online safety. If you’re currently dealing with online stalking or harassment, please check out this site for some information as to how you might best deal with it.