It's Safer Internet Day, and that means it is finally time to start making safer choices while browsing the web.
Insafe is a Brussels-based non-profit funded by the European Union. Although it has annually organised Safer Internet Day on the second day of the second week of February since 2004, numerous countries outside Europe also participate.
Facebook's Silicon Valley campus will host Safer Internet Day in the US this year, for instance, with the hope of providing resources that'll help internet users. The entire event will be live streamed on 10 February at 1:15 PM PST.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is scheduled to give remarks, and there will be three discussion panels called "Beyond Bullying: Dealing with Trolling & Social Cruelty", "Using Technology to Effect Social Change", and "Wrapping It All Up: A Conversation with Industry Leaders" from Facebook-owned Instagram, Google and Yahoo.
You can watch the event's live stream here. But if you don't want to watch and would rather read about specific ways to make sure your internet browsing safe, then keep reading.
Internet safety tips
Always use unique passwords for different accounts
This is a no-brainer, but unfortunately, it's something that still has to be repeated. When hackers breached several iCloud accounts last year and leaked celebrities' nude photographs stored in iCloud, Apple blamed the whole debacle on celebrities using weak passwords that were easy for hackers to guess.
It's obviously easier just to remember one password for everything, but if it gets into the hands of the wrong people, they can access all your online accounts in one fell swoop and thus hijack your digital life, steal your identity, or worse, find out where you live and make things rather grave for you and your family.
If you need help generating unique passwords and remembering everything, check out our in-depth look at password managers and the different types of available.
Set up Two-step verification
Two-step verification adds an extra step to your typical log-in process.
Without two-step verification, you simply enter in your username and password when logging into an online account. Your one password credential is considered single-factor authentication.
Adding a second step makes your account more secure, mostly because it requires at least two credentials before letting you access an online account. The three types of credentials can include: a password (or pin/pattern), a phone number (or even an ATM card), and something biometric (like a fingerprint).
Two-step verification definitely adds an extra step to your log-in process, making it an inconvenience, but it also ensures a higher level of security. After all...it's difficult for hackers to know or obtain two credentials before gaining access to your online accounts, where as it is easy for them to guess a single password.
Many services and companies offer two-step for their products, including Apple. Check out our in-depth look at two-step verification for iCloud to learn more about how it works.
Passcode/password-lock your devices when not in use
Are you starting to notice a trend here? The easiest and most effective way to keep your personal information safe while using the internet is to use strong passwords. It's not only true for online accounts but also your devices.
Your smartphones, tablets, and computer store just as much personal information as your online accounts, and so experts across the board have recommended using a password or passcode or pin to protect your devices.
Imagine leaving your smartphone unlocked...but then accidentally forgetting it at a restaurant. That means any stranger can access all your photos, emails, and even your ATM and credit cards if you use a mobile payment system.
Many devices allow you to remotely wipe your device should you lose it, but if it takes you hours to realise your device is missing, chances are somebody out there has already taken the opportunity to grab all your personal information.
In other words: don't think it could never happen to you. Lock up your stuff.
Update your security settings across all social media
Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn - the list goes on. Social networks have become an integral part of online lives, as they are a great way to post personal information and stay connected with others.
You probably know that you should be cautious about how much information you provide on social media sites. The more information you post, the easier it is for a hacker to use that information to steal your identity, access your data, or commit other crimes such as stalking. But there's another way to avoid all that without having to totally limit yourself.
Learn about your privacy and security settings. They exist for a reason. Once you discover how they can help you control who sees what you post, you can update your settings and start safely managing your online experience.
Ensure you're using a secure site/wireless connection
Wireless hotspots are available everywhere, including in coffee shops, libraries, airports, hotels, universities, and other public places. Although they're convenient, they’re often not secure. If you choose to connect to a public Wi-Fi network, and send information through websites or apps, be aware that someone could be accessing your information.
To protect your information when using wireless hotspots, avoid using apps that require personal or financial information and only send information through web sites that are encrypted. To determine if a site is encrypted, look for HTTPS in the web address. The “S” stands for secure, and it prevents eavesdropping from a third party.
You should also protect your home wireless network. You can do this by making sure you have set up a password and changed the default SSID (your network's name). That means changing it from "Linksys" to whatever you prefer.