The celebration of Internet Safety Month happens every June and focuses on the security of families and kids. Internet safety requires daily attention all year long, but as summer heats up and kids are blessed with ample amounts of free time, security awareness becomes just as important as sunblock. Here are seven actions to consider in your efforts to keep yourself and your families secure in your digital lives.
Install an App That Reduces Screen Time
A quick Google search yields all sorts of studies and statistics that paint the horrors of screen addiction. But you don’t need an internet connection to see how deep society has fallen into the routine of staring at smartphones. Just go to a café or mall or even walk through busy streets of a big city and count the number of people you see locked into their devices.
Many individuals never consider how much time they spend staring at a screen. Thankfully, developers have created apps that track just that. Some even allow you to customize how often certain apps, like Facebook or Twitter, send notifications. Others track your daily phone-use habits and create logs that visually represent how much time you’re spending with a screen. It may seem somewhat ironic to dig into your phone and download an app that reduces how often you dig into your phone, but collecting hard numbers might reveal surprising results.
Beef Up Browser Security with Extensions
Even the most cautious, security-savvy person could end up on a malicious website or be targeted by a malicious advertisement. Browser plugins, though far from bulletproof, help reduce the potential risks associated with browsing the internet. Adblockers, for example, do more than prevent annoying pop-ups and advertisements, they also block harmful content that could infect your machine. Of course, just because you have a vaunted security extension enabled doesn’t mean you can browse without concern. As with everything security, common sense and awareness should be prioritized at all times. With that said, check out this article for five extensions aimed at creating a safer browsing experience.
Ditch Passwords and Embrace Passphrases
The days of password complexity have finally met their end. NIST (Nation Institute of Standards and Technology) recently released a new publication with updated guidelines for password creation. The gist: forget complexity like symbols, numbers, and letters; move to passphrases instead.
Before this publication, users were often recommended to create a password like: “##adEYv$S)00_!”, which is nearly impossible to remember and annoying to type.
To avoid both of those barriers, experts recommended passphrases but still suggested they utilize symbols, numbers, and letters: “TheD0gW@nt$2Go0ut!” for example. That’s a strong password to be sure, but it’s not exactly easy to remember and certainly not easy to type.
Thankfully, the new guidelines recommend passphrases that ditch the complexity. So the above example becomes “TheDogWantsToGoOut”—a much easier to remember and more convenient passphrase all around.
Buy Yourself a Password Manager
Passphrases don’t remove the challenge of developing unique passwords for every online account. According to a study from a few years ago, the average user has 27 online accounts, which means 27 unique passwords. And truthfully, 27 seems like a low number considering the digital revolution of nearly every aspect of life.
So how does one create and recall 20-plus passwords on a daily basis? By using a password manager. Password manager software generates, stores, and syncs codes across multiple devices for you. All you have to do is remember one master password to unlock every account. For more information on how password managers work and if they’re safe to use, read this article. Once you get on the password manager bandwagon, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
Adopt a Less-is-More Approach to Social Media
Believe it or not, social media never forgets. Anything and everything you post ends up on a cloud database somewhere, and even if you delete a post, you never know if someone took a screenshot of it.
For example, airing grievances about your co-workers and bosses could lead to unemployment. Posting offensive content could put a strain on personal relationships. Tweeting out your national ID or social security number will certainly lead to identity theft.
Oversharing on social media creates unnecessary and easy-to-avoid risks. And it’s more than just the obvious infractions of data privacy or offending friends and followers. Oversharing typically indicates an addiction to social media, which means spending less quality time with the people around you and in general could lead to loss of sleep and depression.
Avoid Connecting to Public Networks
Summer means traveling and vacations for a lot of people. Travel and vacations mean using a lot of public networks to access WiFi. Using public networks means jumping in the network-pool with all types of other folks and devices, some of which could be malicious.
Public WiFi has long presented a major security threat. Cybercriminals have no trouble intercepting communications on unsecured networks and stealing whatever information is being shared. As a general rule, it’s best to avoid accessing sensitive info such as bank accounts when on a public network. And remember that while on vacation or travel, the idea is to get away, which also means getting away from the internet. But if you must connect, consider getting a VPN, which encrypts your connection and helps prevent scammers from stealing your information.
Be Selective in the App Store
As hard as Google and Apple try to keep their respective stores free of malicious apps, it’s nearly impossible for them to vet every single developer. Keep that in mind when downloading and installing anything on your devices. Read reviews and note the number of times a particular app has been downloaded. Avoid third-party, uncertified apps altogether. And just like sharing on social media, less-is-more. Apps gain access to your personal information. The fewer you have, the less you share. And to that end, be sure to remove the ones you no longer use routinely!
Bonus Track: Summer of Security
June represents more than the official month of internet safety, it also happens to be the catalyst of our second annual Summer of Security! We’re giving away free posters, t-shirts, infographics, and tips & tricks all summer long. So, tune into our blog and social media accounts to get your share of the action! Happy summer!
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