Knowing What to Trust and What to Ignore Online

Over the past few years many aspects of our lives have shifted online, and even services previously unavailable have undergone the shift thanks to recent lockdowns. You can schedule appointments, grocery shop and even meet with a doctor, all through your mobile device or computer. With this increased ease and availability, also comes the need for increased vigilance. 

Unfortunately, with so many individuals moving their lives into the virtual sphere, so, too, has come the rise of cybercrime and hacking. Does this mean we should throw all our devices out the window and never engage in the online world again? No, all it means is we might need to be a little more aware of the way in which we engage online. 

Set strong passwords 

Most websites requiring password protection recommend securing your account with a strong password. At this point we’ve read those instructions so many times that it no longer holds significance in our brains. Which is rather unfortunate as they’re very important instructions. 

Setting a strong password protects your personal information, from bank account and social security numbers to your phone number and email. Keeping this information secure online is as important as keeping it secure in real life, and your password is the first step in doing this. Strong passwords include numbers and letters, special characters and symbols, uppercase and lowercase, in a combination significant to only you. 

Monitor online shopping 

While it might sound cliche, if you pick up bad vibes from a website, you probably shouldn’t be on there. If it looks untrustworthy, it probably is, and you might be better off clicking the red X in the corner of your browser. 

With the rise of social media advertisements, there’s also been the rise of fake websites selling fake merchandise. If you can’t verify the website, you shouldn’t give it your credit card information. 

How do you figure out if it’s a legitimate website? Great question:

  • Look for “https,” not just “http” in the web address
  • Make sure there is a padlock symbol in the URL bar, this promises to encrypt and scramble your data so it can’t be stolen
  • Check for misspellings or grammatical errors in the web addresses

Again, if a website makes you nervous, clue into that gut feeling and maybe go looking for that product somewhere else. 

Stay on alert for phishing scams

At this point, phishing scams have become so prevalent it’s possible you’ve already encountered one. The tactic of phishing scams is to send out fraudulent emails, links or attachments that prompt you to disclose private information, or corrupt your device with a virus if opened. If it’s from an email that looks like it might be from HR or corporate, double check the email address for misspellings or errors, and contact your HR or IT department directly if you are doubtful.

Take advantage of privacy settings

Privacy settings are constantly being updated on websites, and they don’t always keep your information as private as you would like. This information isn’t often communicated to users, so it’s important for you yourself to check up on those privacy settings and set them as securely as you would like. Default privacy settings, while they do help, are often more open than you realize.

Don’t click on anything suspicious

While this harkens back to phishing scams and the dangers of clicking on a strange attachment, clickbait is something you might encounter while browsing online, like a pop-up window or a link from one website to another. It might also be an advertisement at the bottom of the screen. However, these links rarely promote safe internet browsing and will likely send you to a corner of the internet in which you don’t want to be. 

Use discretion when posting

It’s just a fact, but current and potential supervisors can access your social media accounts and see any pictures, videos, links and comments you post or are tagged in. If you keep your accounts public, anyone has access to your information, friends and strangers, and can easily begin to piece together your location and your history. Posting personal, or even questionable, content can be damaging in a variety of ways, from limiting careers options to giving away personal information.

Know what you’re downloading 

Whether you’re downloading an update, file, attachment or even an app, make sure you know who and where the download came from, and what it is supposed to do. Computer updates shouldn’t be from random online sources, and attachments should be only from people you know and trust. If you realize your device begins to run slower than normal, things take longer to load or your device acts oddly, shutting down or restarting without action on your part, your device might be compromised and require IT assistance.

Protecting yourself online 

As more and more of our lives move online, the need to remain ever vigilant and practice safe online habits increases. Whether you’re shopping, gathering resources for a presentation or paying bills, keep your privacy secure at all times.

For more information on online security, such as promoting safe online habits in the workplace, contact Mazzitti & Sullivan EAP today at 800-809-2925.