Working together towards a safer internet

The internet is a big part of many people’s daily lives. It is fun, useful and informative, but it can also be dangerous.

Today, we celebrate the 20th edition of “Safer Internet Day”. From cyberbullying to social networks to digital identity, each year we help with events taking place around the world to make the internet a safer and better place for everyone, and especially for children and young people.

Last year (2022), we shared an overall top 10 tips. This year, we are building on that blog and will focus on protecting your (personal) information on:

  • Social Media

  • Internet

  • And via your Mobile or Smartphone

Social Media

Have you ever thought about how much information you actually share on social media? If you share too much information, you’ll make yourself an easy target for malicious hackers.


1. Set your social media profiles to private and review what information is visible publicly

Keeping your profiles private on social media can make it harder for strangers to contact you online or obtain your information. Choose an option that makes your profile visible only to yourself or your friends.

Go to your account settings and your security (or privacy) menu to view and change your privacy level. Even if you choose to keep your profile public, make sure your crucial information (such as your address and phone number) is hidden. 

Check this every few months to make sure everything you want to keep private stays that way.


2. Consider whether you will regret posting a message or photo in the future

Part of being safe on the internet is knowing what is and is not okay to post. It may feel fine at a certain moment to post something inappropriate or provocative, but remember that those posts can be screenshot, viewed and shared by people all over the world, even after you have deleted them.

As a rule of thumb, ask yourself if your post is something you want your (grand)parents, teachers or future employers to see. If the answer is no, don’t post it.


3. Make sure you approve posts you are tagged in before sharing them

You can prevent anything harmful or embarrassing from being linked to your account by enabling tag rating. This is especially important if your friends’ accounts are not set to private; a post or image in which they tag you can be seen by anyone.

Enable tag review in your privacy settings. You’ll get a notification when someone tags you in a post and then have the option to approve the tag and post the message on your own account, or reject it.


4. Never give personal information to someone you met online

This may seem obvious, but it is still important to remember. No matter how well you think you know someone you’ve met online, you can never really be sure who they are and whether they could be dangerous.

Avoid giving contact details such as your name, address or phone number, as well as other information that could make it easy to find you, such as your school or workplace.


Prevent abuse through basic digital (mobile) internet hygiene

5. Do not open e-mails or files from people you do not know

Phishing scammers are people who use fake emails or messages to find out personal information about you and then take advantage of it. If you see an email from an unknown address, or from an address you know but with a suspicious message, move it to your spam folder. The email may also contain links that look legitimate, but never click on it until you can verify that it is a legitimate message.

Phishing scammers are often after your bank account or national insurance number, so be extra careful if you receive an email asking for money, login details or very personal information.


6. Clean your browsing history often to preserve your privacy

Many sites have access to your cookies: small text files that record your preferences and make sites respond to them, often to show you more relevant ads. However, cookies can also be used by hackers to get your personal data.


7. Keep your computer software up-to-date

If there is one tip you remember, let it be this one! Most hacks and breaches still take place via outdated and/or vulnerable software.

Most software updates come with security upgrades, so it is important that you always have the latest version. Enable automatic updates on your computer and smartphone settings to easily download updates as soon as they are released. 


8. Enable encryption software on your phone

Many smartphones are encrypted, meaning their software encrypts your information so that it cannot be accessed by unauthorised users. To check if your phone is encrypted, go to settings and the “Security” section.


9. Set your Bluetooth settings to “undetectable”

Although your phone’s Bluetooth is not as easy to hack as a wireless network, hackers can still use it to remotely access your phone when in range. To avoid this, set your Bluetooth standard to “undetectable” so you don’t show up on a hackers’ radar.

If you see an unknown Bluetooth request to pair with your device, ignore or reject it immediately. Be extra careful in crowded areas where potential hackers are within range of your Bluetooth, such as restaurants and public transport.


10. Only download apps from verified app stores

The easiest way viruses can enter your phone is through downloads such as apps. “Official” shops like the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store can generally be considered safe places to buy apps, but never just download an app from another (unknown) site.

Remember to read the requirements, terms and conditions of an app before installing it. This will be long and probably boring, but it is important to know exactly what is being installed on your device.

Author: Vincent Meijer, Cybersecurity and Sustainability Leader at Xplore Group

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