The internet can either be a scary place or it can be a great one; the outcome really lies in your hands. Like almost anything else, the net can be unsafe if used improperly. Because of this, it’s best to take security measures to ensure that everyone can utilize what the internet has to offer, without having to deal with any unnecessary nonsense while doing so.
Internet security can be easy if you know where to start, so here are some suggestions on how you can keep your family safe on the net.
1. Knowledge Is Power
First, it would be best to educate both yourself and your family members about the dangers that can come with browsing the web. Just like offline, there are both good and bad people strolling around, some of which take amusement and great joy in causing trouble for others. Sure, there are programs to protect your from hackers—which we’ll get to in just a minute—but what about from those you might be interacting with on social media websites?
This is where education will be the only thing that can protect your family. Know and teach that you should never share your personal information with those you meet online. Never share your full name, address, the names of the schools you’ve attended or are attending, where you work, or anything that might clue people in on how they can locate you.
It’s especially important that your children know about this and the reason behind it because kids are typically more susceptible to peer pressure than adults; unfortunately, online predators can give off whatever impression they choose in order to appeal to youngsters. That being said, adults aren’t immune from ill intentions being sent their way by people they meet online either.
2. Watch Out For Scammers
There are a lot of scams on the web that could present themselves as emails, websites, and even software downloads. One of the more common ones is the Nigerian 419 Scam. In this scam, an email is typically sent that describes someone needing money in order to have their millions of dollars released to them.
The sender might describe a situation that will make you feel empathetic for them so you’ll be willing to help, or they might try to say that they’re interested in working with you as a business partner. All they’ll need from you is for you to wire money to them—but don’t worry, they’ll be paying you a large sum of money in return. Unfortunately, those millions will never come, and you’ll instead be out however much you sent them.
Another somewhat common scam is when you receive an email that appears as if it was sent from someone you know (whether that someone be an actual person or a company) that includes a link for you to click. One simple word of advice for this one: never click the link unless you are sure it is a safe site. You can check the website without actually clicking on it by hovering your mouse cursor over the hyperlinked text.
3. Install Security Software
If you haven’t already done so, it would be wise to install some security software. Start with an anti-virus program, which you can get for free. A few of the ones I recommend are Panda Free Antivirus, Avast!, and AVG, but you can find more by doing a search online.
An anti-virus can only protect you so much though, so it would also be a good idea to install a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN is especially important because it protects the privacy of you and your family. No one will be able to tell your actual location or IP address when you’re using it.
What it actually does is encrypt the internet traffic you send and receive. You connect to the VPN’s remote server, which makes all of the requests to the net on your behalf; for example, you’re still the one clicking on the websites, etc., but your actions filter through the VPN. The added bonus of having a VPN is that you’ll be able to unblock geo-restricted webpages, which can be very useful if you travel often.
4. Use Parental Controls
Whenever you give your kids access to the internet, you should always make sure that parental control settings are enabled. On your smartphone, you can find an app for this, but online, the best bets are add-ons for your web browser. Mozilla Firefox has some that come in handy and are very easy to install.
I typically recommend FoxFilter, which allows you to make lists of keywords and websites that you want blocked, as well as a list of “safe” sites.
5. Strengthen Your Passwords
Some common mistakes that can end up troublesome are using the same password more than once, forgetting to log out, and creating weak passwords. However, if you’ve got your computer protected and your family educated about internet use, you shouldn’t have many problems keeping them safe online.