When it comes to security in our everyday lives, we know the basics: lock the door, lock the car, and pay attention to your surroundings. However, when it comes to security while using the Internet, the basics may not be as straightforward.
More and more, we’re using the Internet to make purchases and transmit sensitive data, and hackers are getting better and better at stealing that information. It’s a serious problem that continues to grow, but there are a few things you can do to keep yourself — and your data — more secure while using the Internet.
- Know what information you should be protecting. Think twice before entering any personally identifiable information, like social security numbers, Medicaid/Medicare numbers, credit card numbers, your credentials, or any information that you wouldn’t want strangers to know.
- Make sure the webpage is secure. Before you enter any sensitive information into a webpage, check for a padlock in the browser.
This padlock indicates that the website has a trusted encryption certificate (sometimes called a Secure Socket Layer, or “SSL,” certificate). Sites that do not have trusted certificates may not be legitimate and could be trying to steal your information. Your browser will also warn you when you navigate to a site that isn’t trusted. If you choose to proceed to this website, don’t enter any sensitive information.
Another way to check if a website is secure is to look at the strength and validity of the site’s SSL settings. SSL is a technology used to encrypt web traffic. If a site’s SSL is strong, your information will be encrypted and secure. You can find free scanner programs on the Internet that check a website’s vulnerability Qualys has a particularly good scanner. If you’re questioning a website’s security, run the scan before you put any information on that site. If the scan shows a rating lower than a B, you should consider not visiting that website.
- Is your WiFi safe? Mobile devices are also prone to security issues. Public WiFi hotspots at restaurants, airports and other venues are inherently insecure and can be used to steal your information. Even if you aren’t entering sensitive information, lots of information can be accessed through WiFi using your phone. Ars Technica did an interesting study on this with NPR technology correspondent Steve Henn, which revealed that we should avoid connecting to most WiFi hotspots.
Be aware that your phone will automatically connect to WiFi that it has connected to before. This feature can be disabled. Check the support website of your phone manufacturer for details on how to disable the auto-connect feature.
As long as you’re cautious and think before you enter your information on a website, you will be less likely to run into security issues from the Internet.
For more tips on internet security, visit the government’s US Cert’s website, which offers tips on a variety of cybersecurity threats.