5 things to do for your own security this Safer Internet Day

The digital world is constantly under siege and one has to constantly be aware of the dangers lurking in suspicious URLs sent by unknown miscreants.

Today marks the annual Safer Internet Day which has now be recognised for 19 years. This year the theme is “Together for a better internet” and calls on stakeholders to make the internet a safer space for all including the younger generation.

We believe that cybersecurity is something that one has to constantly be aware of while traversing the halls of the internet. As such we have a few recommendations for ways you and your loved ones can be safer online.

While many of these solutions carry a fee such as a subscription or a one off purchase, we urge you to consider investing in these solutions just as you would in proper security for your home.

Start using a password manager

A study published by NordPass in 2021 revealed that the average person has around 100 passwords which sounds immense, but really isn’t if you’re entrenched in the digital world.

Unfortunately, many people recycle passwords which is a concern given how many security breaches we see in a given month. Creating and remembering 100 passwords is a tough ask and that’s why we recommend using a password manager.

Many people already use their web browser to store passwords but we found that the functionality of this solution is severely limited. That said, this solution is better than writing your passwords down or recycling passwords.

Not only do password managers help you keep track of the hundreds of passwords you have they also help you create complex and secure passwords.

We recommend LastPass and 1Password which we have used previously but you really should shop for a solution that has the features and price that work for you.

Start using MFA for everything

A strong password is just part of good security because given enough time, resources and will power, passwords can be compromised. As such we highly recommend making use of multi-factor authentication (MFA) where ever it is possible.

On that note, Google has announced that its users have had MFA enabled by default. This means users are protected by their password as well as a prompt they need to approve on their smartphone.

While MFA does add some friction to the login process, this friction could stop ne’er-do-wells right in their tracks.

We can’t exactly recommend a specific solution here, but we do suggest enabling MFA where it is available.

Be aware of what you share

This is a tricky subject to broach because being active on social media is something many folks enjoy. However, the content you post online can be used against you or rather, to your detriment.

Consider your online profiles and how much information they contain and then consider what is visible to whom.

As regards Facebook we highly recommend plugging the URL to your profile page into a private window to see what somebody who isn’t your friend can see. Facebook has become a treasure trove of information and if all of that information is visible to anybody then you may find that information being used against you.

Further to that, phishing is a real threat and while much of it is accomplished remotely, scammers and criminals still try to socially engineer targets to giving up sensitive information.

Before you share anything whether it’s over the phone or via email we recommend dialling that person or institution’s number yourself and confirming.

When in doubt, ask

We’re not going to pretend that we know about every scam and piece of malware online at the moment but frankly, nobody should have to retain that amount of information.

Cybersecurity is as much about collaboration and knowledge sharing as it is about defence. We need to start being open to helping folks who don’t understand when something is a scam.

To that end we recommend you ask somebody about a suspicious website or email when you are in doubt. Remember, cybercriminals have made it their day job to try and compromise targets and as such they are constantly dreaming up new techniques and attack vectors.

Parents should be using parental controls

The internet can be a massive distraction and while that’s okay during your lunch break, parents should be taking a hands-on approach when it comes to the internet and their children.

While parental controls for adult websites and the like are great, parents should also be cognisant of the content their children are consuming on websites they are allowed to access. Vet the channels they watch on YouTube for yourself, make sure they aren’t having conversations with unsavoury people and manage how much time they spend online.

To that end Carey van Vlaanderen, chief executive officer of ESET South Africa recommends limiting access to certain apps and websites.

“Disconnecting devices is not a solution, but limiting what sites, services and platforms can be accessed is. If we want students to learn and perform at their best, smart phones and other online distractions must be managed,” explains van Vlaanderen.

“One method of controlling access to digital technology is to physically remove it and allow for periods throughout the day when it can be used. Research suggests children study most effectively for around 45 minutes. It’s important that those precious minutes are productive and free of distractions. Welcome breaks can then be used for quick updates and catch ups, but a relatively strict routine needs to be adhered to. It’s too easy to get lost in Reels and TikToks beyond the allocated time,” adds the CEO.

Over and above our suggestions you should be using a good internet security solution. The likes of Google have become very good at detecting malicious websites but a security solutions provides another layer of protection.

On that note we want to highlight the fact that FNB and ABSA customers can download Trend Micro security solutions for free.

Standard Bank also offers a security solution in Trusteer Rapport which you can read more about here. Unfortunately we cannot find any third-party security solutions for Nedbank although it does provide a litany of protections on its end.

Capitec makes use of a MFA token on a keyring for its security but doesn’t include or offer any sort of third party application for internet security. Much like Nedbank, much of Capitec’s security rests on its solutions.

As we’ve mentioned, cybersecurity is a complex, ever changing beast but these recommendations should help to make your time online just a little bit safer.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]


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