Beware! Are you safe? How to protect your information before going online

Beware! Are you safe? How to protect your information before going online

There has been a surging amount of internet usage as of this month. This is mainly because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Now that everyone is at home, our daily lives have changed drastically. There are some things we can no longer do and that leaves us with a lot of time online.

According to the statistics of OpenSignal, the Philippines has a massive influx in the amount of time smartphone users spend on Wi-Fi. Jumping to 13.4% these past few weeks since the start of the Luzon lockdown. One reason for this massive influx of usage is because of social media.

Facebook’s fame skyrocketed when it launched a mobile version of it in 2006. And after a decade, 54% of FB users are on mobile. With China, India and the U.S having the highest number of smartphone uses.

Smartphone usage statistics stated that about 2/3 of the world’s population is now connected via their mobile devices. This current year 2020, there is an expected estimation of 5.5 billion smartphone users. In the Philippines, there are about an approximate 41.09 million mobile users in the year 2020.

Due to the increase in social media usage, there is also an increasing amount of time spent online. In the Philippines, the average person spends about 10 hours and 2 minutes. Where they spend 4 hours after their waking time on different social media platforms. Beating the record of Thailand last 2019.

Work on notebook
Photo by Sergey Zolkin / Unsplash

Social media made a big impact on our lives. With its user-friendly design, even the elderly and young people can use it. It has helped us keep in touch with people and even meet new friends. And it has helped us conquer boredom.

But we mustn’t forget the salient point that there is also a risk of going online. There are a lot of malevolent things that are happening on the web. And your personal information might be at risk, and must need to be kept safe always. Cases of false identity and stolen personal information can occur. And it is not just social media we have to be wary of. Different sites pose a great risk as well.

Anonymous computer hacker in white mask and hoodie.
Photo by Bermix Studio / Unsplash

Cyberbullying, phishing, scams, viruses, and malware. To name a few of the possible threats you might encounter when going online.

Especially now during this pandemic, a way to prevent the spread of the virus is to stay at home. The main question now is “Are you safe when browsing the internet, installing mobile apps, using mobile apps, registering to different websites and more?

Here are some tips for protecting your information before going online.

1. Know how are you connected to the internet

At the ROW DTLA — FREE Wi Fi — for all your screen needs.
Photo by Paul Hanaoka / Unsplash

Connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot is convenient, there are tremendous amounts of risk that can occur. Much public Wi-Fi use no passwords or encryption, this makes it easy for attackers to “see” your internet traffic. Another risk is the man-in-the-middle attack. As the name suggests, it is a form of eavesdropping. When data sent from your device to a service or a website, the attacker can go-in between and “read” your data, making it no longer private.

But there ways to help you counter these attacks. One of which is using sites with Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). You can find it in the top left corner of your browser where you can see a padlock icon. The purpose of this is that it encrypts your connection. It is used for secure communication over a computer network.

Another is using a Virtual Private Network or VPN. This creates a tunnel between your device and the proxy server that again encrypts all traffic, so even if the website is not in HTTPS you will still be secured browsing.

2. Create a strong password

iPhone with VPN service enabled in hand
Photo by Privecstasy / Unsplash

Passwords are one form of encryption. It protects all your data and information. As defined by the University of Ottawa, “it is your first line of defense against unauthorized access to your computer and personal information.

A password should contain at least 7 or more characters. It must also have a mix of numbers, characters, and letters. Your password must not contain any personal information. The longer and more complicated your password is the harder it is to hack.

To keep your information secure, always remember to log-off or sign-out. Avoid entering passwords when you connect to public Wi-Fi. And don’t enter passwords on computers you’re not familiar with like computer shops. And above all don’t write your passwords down.

3. Know your privacy settings

Privacy settings can help you control who and what information you chose to share/show. There are many different privacy settings on your computers, phone, on your apps, social media and sites you’re browsing on. It is important to read the permission you have granted when using different digital platforms.

When using any social media platform, take note of what are the accesses that you have given. Know that some of your information is available to the public. These include your name, birthdate, hometown and activities.

For example, on Facebook, it has different privacy settings on your social profile. Always remember to guard your information. Some questions you might ask yourself when using Facebook or any social media platforms are “Who can see my stuff?, Who can contact me?, Who can look me up?”

4. Know the rules of sharing

Photo by Bernard Hermant / Unsplash

Context matter when you’re sharing content.

Some websites require you to input personal information like your name, email address, and birth dates. The problem there is knowing if the site you’re attempting to use is trustworthy and won’t leak your personal information.

Some tips to help you determine if the site is credible or not is by checking if it is up to date. Determine the links used are from credible sources. Is the layout of the website good and not muddled by lots of ads. And if the sites are associated with trusted sources of information like government agencies, hospitals, schools, and universities.

When using an app, you might get prompts saying “allow this app to…..”, it is within your right to choose which information you would like to share. Such permission includes your locations, pictures, voice recording and more. It is also important to know what they would use the information and make sure that it remains private.

The internet has grown exponentially and will continue to do so. But as it evolves so are the threats and the risk. As the pandemic continues, let us all keep safe both online and at home.

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