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Must 15 “Do not do on Internet” rules for 2021

I will discuss 15 fundamental safety rules of the Internet that would help users stay safe and secure while surfing online.

Published: August 1, 2021 By Ozair Malik

People entering their account login credentials on a secure site.

A 21- year old student of Kings College London, running for student union president, found out about the importance of Internet safety rules the hard way. A week before Election Day, his witty opponents found his objectionable pictures in his past social media posts that were vulgar and referenced drug use.

This dreadful incident crashed his political career. The doomed candidate withdrew his candidature, providing an open playing field to his opponents.

Alas, he is not the only victim of lousy internet surfing habits. A lot many people have suffered such losses due to their careless posting on social media. Moreover, many people have been exposed to hacks, scams, identity thefts, and physical harm at the hands of bad actors present online.

Since the Internet is a public space and unsafe surfing can be very hazardous for you and your loved ones. While you are browsing the Internet, you must protect yourself because it is highly unregulated. 

Below, I will recommend some of the best yet basic safety rules of the internet to follow while browsing the web or using social media.

15 basic internet safety rules are listed.

1. Minimize Giving Out Personal Information

I have observed that users voluntarily post their personal information on social media and the web in general. Another major mistake people commit is that they tend to post their plans like “Travelling to LA with 5 others”.

This information reveal proves very lethal as black-hats always lookout for personal information on social networking sites. Moreover, you become prone to identity theft because your personally identifiable information is public. A cyber-criminal can use it to disguise you.

Around 50% of Internet users have given out their PII because they are unaware of the cons.

You might have been a victim of identity theft once because identity theft attacks have increased 42% since the beginning of the pandemic. Additionally, 47% of US consumers had their identity compromised.

Therefore, I recommend you protect your identity by not giving out personal information on the web. If required, do a thorough check first to ensure that your data will be in safe hands.

2. Only Give Out Relevant Information

Internet is a magnificent public space, and as of January 2021, there are 4.66 billion active users worldwide. These billion users include your friends and family—whom you know. But, it also has cybercriminals.

Your potential employer only needs to know about your experience and professional credentials. He has no concern with your relationship status, family background etc.

Therefore, I recommend you not to hand out irrelevant information to strangers and employers without reference.

Besides that, you might have filled many online forms that ask for your personal and professional information. While filling such forms, always read them thoroughly and check if it is legitimate or not. Moreover, if the document requires inputting irrelevant information, then discarding it is a good option.

3. Be Cautious while Shopping Online

Since the beginning of COVID-19, the consumer trend has shifted towards online shopping, and E-commerce has experienced a vast boast. In 2020, E-com sales worldwide totalled 4.28 trillion USD. This whopping revenue added billions to the wealth of Jeff Bezos and similar founders of E-com giants.

Now, E-commerce is a need of the hour, considering the new normal—social distancing. But, there are security and privacy challenges for consumers.

To avoid getting scammed and handing out your credit card details to a Cybercriminal:

  1. Do not click on links embedded in a promotional Email because it is more likely to be a phishing attack.
  2. Only make purchases from the trusted company’s platform.
  3. Never use a public WI-FI to access an e-com site.
  4. Make sure your internet connection is secure.
  5. Before entering Credit Card details on a website, check for “HTTPS” in the URL.
  6. After making a purchase, always clear your browser cache to delete credentials stored in cookies.

Remember, black-hats always look out for financial information on e-com sites. Therefore, by following the above checklist, you will save yourself from financial theft or loss.

4. Use a VPN to Go Online on Public Networks

Public networks are unsecured and are meant to get accessed by anyone freely. This is a serious security risk because they do not have any authentication mechanism in place. Most cybercriminals are monitoring public networks for sniffing the data of users connected to them.

Whenever you need to go online urgently and a private network is unavailable, use a VPN to make a secure connection over public Wi-Fi.

A VPN provides a secure, reliable and encrypted private connection over a public network via tunnelling. By using a VPN, you will minimize the risk of data sniffing. However, there is a downside to it, you might experience slow internet speed.

5. Review Your Privacy Settings Periodically 

The fact that corporations like Google, Facebook and Microsoft are following our traces is known to many. Your data is an asset for them because they sell it to the highest bidders and make money.

Default privacy settings of accounts are set to share your every web activity and personal and mobile device data with the company. Therefore, I recommend you periodically check your accounts privacy settings and revoke access to data.

Google and Facebook have provided privacy safeguards on their platforms; you can use them to protect your privacy and restrict the company’s access to data. However, such privacy guards are unknown to most users due to a lack of awareness.

After reading this basic internet safety rule, you must go to your account settings and enable privacy guards if you are a privacy-conscious individual.

6. Always Use Strong Passwords

Password is the most basic yet widely used authentication and security feature on the Internet. This security feature is easily exploitable because people tend to use easy to remember—weak passwords. Such weak passwords can easily be cracked by a black hat in seconds.

Never use a password that is a combination of:

  • Known dictionary word
  • Your friend or family names
  • Birthplace
  • Favourite or current city
  • Only numbers or alphabets

Such combinations of the password are very poor, and it is strictly prohibited by Internet security experts.

If you want to be safe on Internet, then always use a strong password – a combination of:

  • Upper and lower case letters
  • Numbers
  • Special symbols
  • Uniqueness
  • Minimum length of 15 characters

It is impossible to remember strong passwords made with the characteristics mentioned above. Hence, use an offline password manager software or a personal diary to record your passwords.

7. Practice caution while posting on the web

As I mentioned in my intro, the case of a candidate. This is the perfect example of how careless posting on the Internet can ruin your life and career.

Remember, The Internet does not have a “Delete Key”.

With a touch of a button—you can take down your career, you can take down your boss, you can ruin a relationship- romantic or otherwise. 

- CEO & Founder of FinePoint

The comments, pictures, posts, memes, etc., you post online will remain there even after you die. Deleting the original doesn’t remove its copies over the web. Hence, there is no way for you to undo a derogatory post, comment or obscene image you regret about

Keeping in view the consequences of careless posting on the Internet, I recommend you not to post any such thing you would regret later in life.

“Always think twice before hitting the post button.”

8. Avoid Downloading from Torrent Sites

Most users tend to download free music, movies and software from torrent sites. These sites contain pirated and cracked products. Using a pirated and cracked product is illegal itself. But, these versions also contain viruses and Spywares.

The content placed on the torrent is unregulated. Cybercriminals use torrents as a tool to deliver malware to systems and devices.

Suppose you have ever been a victim of ransomware. In that case, there are greater chances that you fell prey by downloading your favourite movie from a torrent site.

I recommend you remove all pirated and cracked products from your system. Alongside, it is better to pay some pennies for the original product instead of staking your whole system for a free one.

9. Be Cautious While Signing-up on a Website

These days a lot many websites ask you to sign-up, make an account or input your Email for promotional emails.

Firstly, do not sign-up on every website and check for its reliability before entering your credentials.

To check the reliability of a website, apply the following checklist:

  1. Make sure it has “HTTPS” and a Padlock in URL.
  2. Review the look and feel of the site. Does it feel legitimate?
  3. Check for spelling and grammar mistakes.

If all the above checkpoints are correct, then you are good to go. Otherwise, immediately leave that site.

As of 2021, Google has experienced a 27% growth in phishing sites, taking over 2 million. This shows that fake and unsafe sites are out there in large numbers. Hence, you need to check the reliability of a place before performing any activity.

10. Make Sure Firewall is Enabled

Firewalls enabled on systems are a good security practice.

Some malicious programs require you to disable the firewall so that they can drop the payload on a system. If any program asks for such permissions, then simply do not install it.

Firewalls settings allow you to implement custom rules according to your or organizations requirement. Therefore, always configure the built-in system firewalls and keep them on in any case.

Every Operating system has a built-in firewall. Set the firewall to perform regular scans and deep scans weekly. Moreover, you must check the scan results and take necessary actions.

11. Regularly Update your Antivirus Program

An antivirus program is a must on a system or mobile device these days. The increasing threats cannot be stopped by built-in firewalls alone.

There are a lot many free and paid yet inexpensive antivirus software available on the Internet. You can use any trusted and reliable program for protection from sophisticated threats.

Moreover, keep the program up to date because the threats are becoming sophisticated every passing day. Hence, antivirus developers are regularly working to enhance protection.

It is recommended to perform weekly deep scans and daily fast scans using an Antivirus program.

12. Always Back Up Your Data

Regularly backing up your data is very essential these days. If you are hit by ransomware or malware that crashes your system, you will suffer a significant loss. To avoid such a loss, always maintain a cloud or cold (external drive) backup of your data.

These days plenty of free and paid cloud services are available which provide storage capacities in TB’s.

Backing up important data is also essential because of ransomware. Ransomware groups keep on asking for more money and do not give out the “Decryption Key”. Therefore, only a backup would be a life saviour in this case.

13. Avoid Interacting with Online Strangers

According to current stats, Facebook alone has 256 million fake profiles.

Everyone you interact with online is not a legitimate person behind the profile. They may be even bots and not an actual human. Nevertheless, fake profiles are a common tactic used by hackers to lure a person.

If you somehow become friends with an online stranger and feel like he actually is what he claims to be, avoid sharing your personal information with him. Moreover, do not meet him alone and always choose a crowded spot for a meeting.

14. Scan Your Emails before Opening

Communication over Emails has increased manifolds due to the “work from home” policy of many companies worldwide. Cybercriminals are using Email as a medium to deliver payloads to the systems via attachments. Moreover, phishing attacks have also been increased, and a lot many employees fell prey.

You should always check your Email before opening that if it is from a trusted source. Do not open an attachment before scanning it with an antivirus program. A little action on malicious email attachments can crash your system.

Besides that, do not click on the links embedded in promotional Emails; they take you to a phishing site instead of the legitimate one. Most users give out information to hackers via these phishing sites.

You can check the destination of the embedded link by hovering your mouse over the link.

About 80% of security incidents are associated with a phishing attack. This stat must be enough for you to realize the seriousness of this threat.

15. Keep your Browser and System Up to date

Developers are working round the clock to enhance the security features at par with the latest threats and vulnerabilities. They also roll out security patches in the updates.

Every program, including the operating system, is at risk. Apps related to health and finance are at high risk. Therefore, it is recommended to regularly update your apps, programs and operating system.

Alongside, browsers are also working to provide a safer browsing experience to their users. Mozilla Firefox is good in terms of security and privacy features as compared to others. It also has a built-in antiphishing tool that warns users of phishing sites.

Browsers also roll out security patches periodically. Therefore, constantly update as soon as you receive it.

Conclusion

Internet safety is the act of staying secure and safe on the Internet. This also includes being aware of the risks associated with your online activity and implement few tips to minimize the risk. The above-mentioned 15 basic internet safety rules will help you in reducing the risk.

Being safe while surfing on the Internet is crucial these days because it can prevent you from being exposed to threats and cybercriminals. Moreover, you will reduce the chances of infecting your devices, harming your family and personal information leak.

Please feel free to comment below your thoughts and feedback. If you feel like something is missing, then also let me know below in the comments.

Tags: 
Security
Author
Ozair Malik
A passionate Cyber Security researcher and writer with a keen interest in Digital Forensics. A community worker running a insta blog to raise cybersecurity awareness among laymen.

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