MN DARE Youth Blog
The Internet: it is something in today’s world that one cannot escape. It is used for nearly everything– communicating, shopping, sharing photos, news, research, and countless other activities. As a matter of fact, you are most likely reading this on the internet right now. As the internet is an everyday tool that nearly everybody uses, it’s easy to forget that it is not always as secure or safe as you would hope. A hacker could obtain your personal information from your doing something as simple as clicking on an ad or sharing a photo online. Don’t get me wrong- this isn’t possible with every photo or ad, but there are specific things that you should avoid doing while using the World-Wide-Web that will help you to stay safe in the digital realm.
The first step in staying safe online is securing your web accounts with a strong password. According to the FBI, you should change your online passwords several times a year, and you should also have different passwords for different accounts. This will prevent a cyber criminal from guessing your password and accessing your information. Some sites offer two-factor authentication (TFA), which is additional security that goes beyond just using a password and incorporates requirements such as using an additional PIN that changes periodically, or even only allowing a login at a particular place or time. If you have the option to use TFA, do it. Once your password is secure, it is a lot harder for hackers to gain access to personal information.
The next step in being safe on the internet is watching what you post on social media. Once something is posted online, it is no longer considered private and can be used for criminal purposes. Even if you think nobody but your friends is going to see a post or you have a private account, it is best not to post something if it is risky or contains personal information. Also refrain from using foul language or posting something that might be inappropriate or offensive. Hackers don’t care about this, but future employers do. If they see something that they don’t like, the employers might not hire you for a job that you otherwise might have gotten. When you put something up on the internet, it never goes away, even if you delete it, so be careful.
One more thing you should watch out for is online scams. Pop up ads, links, or giveaways are often ways criminals use hack or infiltrate your device. They could be telling you to fill out a survey for an entry to win a free vacation when actually they are just stealing your information. Ads that seem too good to be true are probably too good to be true. Nobody is actually selling brand new Ray Bans for $15. It is another scam to possibly get your credit card number.
Online chat rooms also attract criminals. Child predators can pose as kids and talk to you through a fake name and photo. Watch out for this. Do not share any personal information about yourself on chatrooms with strangers, even if you think the people you are chatting with are just harmless kids. Serious predators can use your information to track you down and find you in real life. Your best bet is to simply stay out of websites or apps that allow you to communicate anonymously with strangers.
All of these points can make the Internet seem like a scary thing, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be an extremely helpful tool when used safely and securely. Be cautious when using social media and remember that once you post something, it is no longer private and will never go away. Beware of cyber-criminals and the scams they put online. Secure your accounts, don’t give away your personal information, and listen to your gut while surfing. If you follow these steps, you should be able to freely roam the web while being fairly confident that you are safe.