How to Stay Safe Online: Expert Advice and Must-Follow Tips

In today’s digital era, it’s critical that you take internet safety and computer safety seriously. As people rely more on the internet for such tasks as communication, shopping, and banking, the risks and dangers have also increased. Protecting your personal data and financial information, as well as your online identity, is critical to protect against cybercriminals and malicious activities

By following internet safety tips, such as creating strong and unique passwords, being cautious when sharing personal information, and regularly updating security software, such as malware protection solutions and antivirus tools, you can greatly diminish the likelihood that you’ll fall victim to cybercrime. 

Additionally, staying informed about common online scams and the latest security threats can help you make better decisions and avoid potential dangers. 

Ultimately, prioritizing online safety not only protects you from financial loss and identity theft but it also promotes a secure and reliable digital environment for everyone.

Key Takeaways

  • Cybercrime is increasing, with Cybersecurity Ventures expecting global cybercrime costs to reach $10.5 trillion by 2025, up from $3 trillion in 2015. And if you don’t know how to stay safe online, you’ll be vulnerable to cyberattacks.
  • It’s essential that you stay informed about the most recent threats and best practices for personal cybersecurity.
  • Safeguarding your personal data and online identity is critical to protect against cybercriminals. 
  • By gaining knowledge on how to ensure your online safety, you can effectively protect your personal data.

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Must-Follow Tips on How to Stay Safe Online

Pay Attention to Mobile Phone-Based Scams

Mobile phone scams have been on the rise, and they’re expected to keep rising in 2024, said Sharad Varshney, CEO of OvalEdge, a data governance consultancy and data catalog solutions provider.

“The latest phone-based financial scams are usually variations on typical themes we’ve seen in other tried-and-true scams, i.e., someone wants to get into your account or obtain your payment information and monetize that access,” he told Techopedia. 

The clever ones make use of current news or worries to exploit the fears and uncertainties of their victims, such as orders that are held up by supply chain problems or refunding charges that the victim doesn’t recall incurring or similar schemes, according to Varshney.

“Attackers are now using voice bots to attack users with accounts, making use of multifactor authentication,” he said. 

It works like this: The attacker will use the bot to dial the user, the bot will tell the user to enter their one-time password (OTP) on their phone, the attacker will trigger a login event for the user’s account, and then replay the OTP to force a login.

“This attack requires some setup, and it also requires that the attacker has already obtained the password via some other means, i.e., password spraying or from some other data breach, but these are plausible scenarios,” Varshney said.

These schemes work because they prey on people’s fears and inexperience with fraud and also because they apply pressure at critical points, he explained. 

“Holiday shopping, especially in the midst of a series of overlapping crises related to health and global supply chains, present an ideal opportunity to exploit fears and apply pressure to people who are generally unprepared to respond to it,” Varshney said.

How to Respond to Mobile Phone-based Scams

When you’re thinking about the best ways to respond, Varshney says to consider the following points:

  • Avoid Addressing These Situations on Your Mobile Device

Mobile device email and browsing give attackers an edge as you can’t hover your mouse over a link or email address to see the full details in the same way that a desktop client allows.

“If you get an email about a purchase or payment or refund or the like that you don’t recognize, wait until you get home and can look on a desktop or laptop client to address it,” Varshney told Techopedia. “Then hover over the sender or reply-to address and see if they look right. Something that claims to be from UPS or FedEx but has a Gmail sender or reply-to address is almost certainly bogus.”

  • Watch for Unexpected or Unintended Activity 

“If you see a message about a purchase you don’t recall, treat it with suspicion,” Varshney said. “If you get a push notification on an authenticator app and you didn’t try to log in, don’t give a positive authentication response.” 

  • Use Multifactor Authentication 

“Most big e-commerce sites allow you to set this up for your account,” Varshney noted. “Ideally, use an authenticator app, such as Google Authenticator, Duo, or Auth0, instead of an SMS-based one-time password. SMS-based OTP is of diminishing value, given how easy it is for attackers to subvert or misdirect SMS messages.”

One of the biggest headaches that will be added to these phone-based scams will be attackers leveraging AI, Varshney said.

“From the ability to spoof human voices accurately to the lightning-fast data gathering that will aid bad actors in obtaining personal information to make scams look authentic, consumers need to be more vigilant than ever and utilize some of the above-mentioned safeguards,” he warned.

“For every new tech advancement, there will always be a predator finding ways to exploit it in order to scam unsuspecting victims.” 

Here are five more tips on how to stay safe online:

Create Strong Passwords and Use a Password Manager

In an increasingly sophisticated threat landscape, smart habits, including strong password hygiene and using such tools as password managers, are critical, said Raffael Marty, executive vice president and general manager of cybersecurity at ConnectWise, a provider of cybersecurity management software for managed service providers

“Instead of recycling the same password across multiple devices and websites, individuals should aim to use unique passwords for each account and application,” he told Techopedia. “Password managers are another powerful tool that allows users to store all passwords for more secure and seamless login experiences across devices.”

Continually Update Existing Systems and Hardware

Another important tactic is ensuring software and operating system patches and hardware appliances are up to date, according to Marty.

“Outdated systems can lead to a sinister chain of vulnerabilities that are entryways for hackers,” he explained. “Instead, individuals should update systems, browsers, and apps regularly while also taking advantage of automatic updates when available.”

Be Vigilant About Monitoring for Suspicious Offers

Malicious URLs are lurking all over the internet in emails, messages, social media posts, pop-up windows, and more, Marty said. Scammers create and distribute these offers and links to attempt to trick users into giving up their personal information and/or lure them into paying for poor or non-existent goods. 

“With this in mind, online users should avoid clicking on any suspicious links, replying to the sender, and opening attachments contained within unsolicited emails,” he said. “If an offer seems too good to be true, it most likely is.”

Take Advantage of the Google Security Checkup

Google offers this feature to help users review and boost the security of their Google accounts.

Google security checkup lets users review and manage various features and security settings related to their Google accounts, such as safe browsing, recent security activities, third-party connections, and saved passwords.

Install Antivirus and Anti-Malware Software

Install antivirus and anti-malware software on each device. 

Be sure you keep these programs updated and run scans frequently to catch and eliminate any harmful software. 

What Is Personal Cybersecurity and Why Should You Take It Seriously?

Personal cybersecurity refers to the measures and practices you should take to protect your personal data, financial information, and your digital assets, such as documents, when you’re online. 

It involves safeguarding personal computers and mobile devices, online accounts, and online activities from various cyber threats such as hacking, identity theft, phishing, malware, and more.

Taking personal cybersecurity seriously and following personal cybersecurity best practices is critical for a number of reasons, including:

Protecting Your Personal Information

The internet is full of various risks, ranging from hackers and fraudsters to identity thieves. However, by gaining knowledge on how to ensure your online safety, you can effectively protect your personal data, including your name, address, financial information, and social security number, from being accessed by unauthorized parties.

Preventing Cybercrime 

Cybercrime is increasing, and if you don’t know how to stay safe online, you’ll be vulnerable to cyberattacks. 

Educating yourself about online security protocols, such as creating strong passwords, activating two-factor authentication, and avoiding dubious links or downloads, can greatly decrease the likelihood of falling prey to cybercriminals.

Safeguarding Your Digital Reputation

It’s vitally important to be aware of your digital presence and reputation in today’s digital world.

Being cautious about online safety can prevent situations that may harm your reputation, such as being a victim of scams, sharing inappropriate material, or participating in cyberbullying

By ensuring you maintain a positive digital reputation, you can safeguard your personal and professional life.

Protecting Your Digital Assets

It’s vital to prioritize personal cybersecurity to safeguard your important digital possessions, including photos and documents. 

If you don’t implement adequate security, these assets can be stolen, lost, or compromised. 

Maintaining Your Privacy Online

Personal cybersecurity helps maintain online privacy by protecting your personal data from being collected, tracked, or sold by third parties without consent. 

It allows you to control your digital footprint and limit exposure to targeted advertising or invasive surveillance.

Safeguarding Against Online Predators

The internet is a great way for you to communicate and interact with others; however, it also lures in online predators who specifically prey on susceptible individuals, particularly minors.

Being knowledgeable about online safety lets you be aware of and avoid potentially dangerous scenarios, such as disclosing personal information to people you don’t know or participating in risky online activities.

The Bottom Line

Online security is a never-ending process. 

That’s why you must stay alert and keep updated about the newest threats and personal cybersecurity best practices. Following the above internet rules can enhance your cyber safety and help you stay safe online. 

FAQs

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Linda Rosencrance
Technology journalist

Linda Rosencrance is a freelance writer and editor based in the Boston area, with expertise ranging from AI and machine learning to cybersecurity and DevOps. She has been covering IT topics since 1999 as an investigative reporter working for several newspapers in the Boston metro area. Before joining Techopedia in 2022, her articles have appeared in TechTarget, MSDynamicsworld.com, TechBeacon, IoT World Today, Computerworld, CIO magazine, and many other publications. She also writes white papers, case studies, ebooks, and blog posts for many corporate clients, interviewing key players, including CIOs, CISOs, and other C-suite execs.