A great way to keep your security from being at risk online is with internet safety tips.
Recognizing the different ways hackers or other cyber thieves might try to lure you into sharing private information will keep you clicking on the right things–and exiting out on the wrong.

Why is Internet Safety Important?

If you’ve ever wondered ‘why is internet safety important’ then you should start equating your internet exploration with traveling to a foreign city or walking alone at night. Situations like these can make you an easy target for danger if you don’t take important safety measures, like traveling with an anti-theft messenger bag or keeping a compact bottle of pepper spray on your keychain.

The same can be said for browsing the internet. Clicking on any link in your email can infect your device with a virus, otherwise known as a phishing attack. And using the same password for every online profile weakens the overall security of your account, making it easier for cyber thieves to access your private information.

Recent studies show that a hacker strikes every 39 seconds. Take control of your security and make sure you’re not next by staying smart and cautious online.

An up-close image of a man looking down at his cell phone while sitting a coffee shop

What Are Some Internet Safety Rules I Can Follow?

Some of the most useful internet safety rules are the easiest to follow. They don’t require purchasing fancy or expensive computer security software, either. Instead, they just need you to have your guard up. You should also try to think as much as a hacker as you can.

Use a Unique Password

Maybe you’ve heard this before, but we’re going to say it again: it’s not wise to use the same password for each of your unique online accounts. Using the same password for everything makes it easier for a hacker to get into all of your accounts.

Keep your accounts secure by having a different password for each account that is at least 12-15 digits long. When planning out what these digits should be, consider the information about you that others might know, therefore making the password easy to crack. This includes birth dates, anniversaries, middle initial and more. Instead of defaulting to include these details in your password, develop a blueprint that makes curating new passwords easier.

This can include taking a random fact about yourself, such as the date you got your first car, and reversing it. For example, if you got your first car on November 11th, 1986 the first few digits of your password could be 861111. Avoid using generic passwords like “12345” or the word “password” itself. These are easy guesses that a hacker can crack within seconds.

If you don’t have time to develop a blueprint for customizing passwords, you can use sites like LastPass to auto-generate hard-to-crack passwords. You can also use LastPass to manage the different passwords for your accounts on different sites.

How Often Should I Change My Password?

Here’s a surprising internet safety tip: it’s unnecessary to update your password every month or even every three months. Changing your password too frequently often leads to us picking passwords similar to the previous password, making it easy for a hacker to guess. The only accounts you need to worry about updating passwords are for email accounts or accounts without two-factor authentication.

Visit Trusted Sites

A trusted site begins with ‘https’–the ‘s’ stands for secure. Therefore, if you’re thinking about making a purchase or sharing personal information on a website that begins with ‘http’, think again. You can also look for a padlock icon on the address bar. Another way to determine if a site is trustworthy is to evaluate whether a phone number or physical address is visible somewhere on the website. You should also keep your eyes open for a security seal that states whether the site works with a security partner. Lastly, does the website you’re browsing have a privacy policy? If not, you might want to exit out of the window. Privacy policies are legally required and dictate how the webpage collects information from visitors.

Checking Your Bank Account and Credit Cards Online

Having the ability to monitor your bank account from your phone is a convenience for many. Overall, mobile banking calls for fewer trips to the banks. Instead, you can deposit or make transfers all from the comfort of wherever you may be.

However, mobile banking comes with its downsides. If you don’t protect your information, it becomes easier for cyber burglars to intervene.

As mentioned earlier, you can do your part to stay protected by using a unique, strong and secure password for your mobile banking account. You should also keep your mobile banking application updated. These upgrades usually include bug fixes and improvements to security that will keep your data encrypted. A quick visit to the App Store or Google Play can help you determine if it’s time for a system upgrade.

Lastly, avoid accessing your mobile banking account from an unsecure network. Yes, it might seem harmless to use a juice bar’s free, public internet to check how much damage that $12 smoothie is going to have on your account. But it can actually put your private information at risk of being seen by the wrong set of eyes.

A woman looks at the back of a red credit card while typing numbers onto her silver laptop

Online Shopping Safety Tips

Much like online banking, online shopping is another convenience many of us can’t do without. There’s no more waiting in long lines, searching the racks for the right size, hiding from aggressive sales associates or searching for parking spots. Instead, you get to browse your favorite store from your living room. And if you have questions about the quality of the product, you can read customer reviews for insight. But there is a downside to online shopping, which is the possibility of the online merchant having a data breach or your personal information somehow getting into the wrong hands. Some online sellers are just scammers in disguise. Let’s review some internet safety tips for keeping your wallet safe while shopping online.

Get to Know the Seller

If you’re shopping on online marketplaces, such as Etsy, eBay or Amazon, take some time to review the seller. Study up on their reviews. Make sure they’re providing legit contact information. Does the product their selling look legitimate? There’s also no better way to verify a seller’s legitimacy than to get to know them yourself. So send them a message to build up your trust and confidence in purchasing with them.

You can also look sellers up on sites like Trustpilot for an overview of customer reviews.

Take the Credit

Fun fact: your credit card provides more protection than your debit card. With a credit card, you have more security against scammers because credit cards protect against fraudulent charges. If a scammer gets a hold of your credit card information, you can easily freeze your card, or even cancel, until the incident is resolved. Essentially, the mess is in the card issuer’s hands.
Online payment systems like PayPal are also great alternatives to using your debit card. PayPal links to a consumer’s bank account. However, when you make an online purchase, the retailer will only have access to the PayPal account number, not the numbers to your bank account.

Don’t Make Purchases On a Public Wi-Fi Network

As mentioned before, it’s not a good idea to make purchases while using a free, public Wi-Fi network. Chances are you don’t know who set up the network. Therefore, you have no idea what they’re doing with your information.

However, if there’s a sale you can’t miss out on happening within that moment, the next best solution would be to shop using a gift card.

If The Sale Seems Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is

If you’re browsing the internet and see the latest AirPods selling for $5, there’s a strong possibility the sale is a scam. This is especially true if the sale is coming from an anonymous seller without previous reviews or information available on their online store.

A man wearing a denim shirt stares thoughtfully at his silver laptop while his hand is on his chin

Enjoy Your Time Online By Practicing Internet Safety Tips

Now that you’ve read up on keeping you and your family secure on the internet, you can get back to watching cat videos or bookmarking online recipes. Just keep the internet safety tips from this article in rotation so you never end up in a compromising situation.