These days, our world operates online more than ever before. From remote work to video games and even smart home technology – there’s no denying that the internet is becoming an engrained part of our day-to-day lives. But with these changes come issues of privacy, cybersecurity and computer safety that can be difficult to navigate. Here, we’ve put together seven tips to help you keep your home safe online.
1. Educate Your Family About Cybersecurity
No matter how safe your personal computer usage is, it’s important to make sure your family is on the same page about cybersecurity. Whether you have aging relatives, young kids or less-than-tech-savvy family members to worry about, be sure to take time to teach them about hackers, phishing schemes and scams.
According to Ready (a National public service campaign promoting emergency-preparedness), you can help protect yourself against cyberattacks by:
- Keeping your software up-to-date
- Using strong passwords
- Watching for suspicious activity
- Creating backup files
- Protecting your WiFi network
Tip: Keep a handy list of things to watch out for – like suspicious links, popups and websites — in your home office as a reminder for yourself and your family.
2. What Not to Share Online
Unfortunately, hackers and scammers may try to trick you into revealing private information about yourself. This can lead to a whole host of issues, including theft of property and personal information. Unless you absolutely trust a secure website, never share:
- Credit card numbers
- Bank account information
- Social security numbers
- Your home address
Tip: Though it may be tempting to post to Facebook about your upcoming vacation, you should never share that you will be out of the house for an extended period of time. Don’t count on your home security system to do all the work for you.
3. Social Networks & Direct Messaging
Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are great tools to help you stay connected with friends and family. Be sure you’re staying safe on these platforms with these tips:
- Keep your account private and only visible to people you know.
- Only add people you know to your friends or followers list.
- Only accept direct message requests from people you know.
Tip: If you have a child, you’ll want to monitor their social media usage frequently to protect them from criminals. Plus, make sure your kids know what is (and isn’t) ok to share online.
4. Online Video Games
The guidelines for staying safe while online gaming are similar to those of other online platforms – namely, avoid sharing personal information. Keep your gamer tag anonymous, avoid chatting with people you don’t know and only play on legitimate apps or networks.
Tip: Some online criminals choose to hack webcams attached to computers or laptops. Help mitigate this risk by keeping cameras covered or unplugged when not in use.
5. Parental Controls
You can keep people in your home from viewing certain websites, TV shows or video streaming sites using parental controls. Hiring a computer repairperson or troubleshooter can typically help you set up this software. Once in place, these websites and shows will require a password to view.
Tip: Parental control software isn’t limited to the computer and television – you can also install it on smartphones and tablets.
Choosing the right password – whether it’s for a social media site, bank account or new WiFi installation – is often one of the first lines of defense when it comes to cybersecurity. According to Ready, the best passwords are:
- 12 characters or longer
- Include upper and lowercase letters
- Contain numbers and special characters
Don’t use the same password for every website and be sure to keep track of your codes using a password manager. It’s also a good idea to change your password every three to four months.
Tip: If available, sign up for two-step authentication for an extra layer of security. This will typically require you to first input your chosen password, and then confirm your identity using a text message or email verification code.
7. Protect Your Identity & Your Child’s Identity Online
Protecting your identity and your child’s identity online is important. Here are a few tips to help keep your information private:
- Keep off of social media sites or use an alias when online.
- Avoid posting photos of yourself or your child.
- If you have friends who post photos frequently, you can ask them politely not to tag you. Or, to avoid posting photos of you without your permission.
- Keep your name, age and other personal information out of your email address, gamer tag or profile name.