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    Internet Safety Tips: Cybersecurity 101

    By The Fullstack Academy Team

    Woman leaning into tech work at office

    In honor of both Cybersecurity Awareness Month and National Internet Day, we’ve compiled our best Internet safety tips to help you stay safe online. Because while haunted houses and horror movies may be scary, experiencing a cyberattack is even more frightening.

    10 Ways to Stay Safe Online

    According to Zippia, one in every three individuals experiences a digital breach each year. In our increasingly digital world, cybersecurity awareness is more important than ever to protect yourself, your valuable information, and your assets.

    Use these 10 Internet safety tips to prevent common cybersecurity threats like phishing scams, ransomware attacks, viruses, and more. (Read to the end for a bonus tip!)

    1. Discern Before Downloading

    Be suspicious of unsolicited emails, messages, or texts, and never open attachments or links from unknown senders. Cybercriminals often trick people into downloading malware by disguising it as something else—this type of social engineering attack is known as “phishing.”

    If you receive a message from an organization you don't recognize or that is unexpected, take the following precautions:

    • Inspect the sender's email address for red flags, such as a misspelled name or an incorrect domain.

    • Hover over links—if the URL looks suspicious, don't click on it.

    • Confirm the validity of the message and sender through a trusted channel.

    2. Protect Your Passwords

    Start by creating strong passwords with a variety of character types. Avoid using common words, phrases, and personal information like a birth date or a pet’s name. You can use a password manager to easily create, store, and protect passwords.

    Then, practice good password hygiene by:

    • Creating a unique login for every platform

    • Updating passwords every 30-90 days

    • Enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA)

    3. Close Abandoned Accounts

    You likely have a handful (or more) of active accounts for sites and apps that you rarely or never access. Cybercriminals can piece together information about you by using data from various unsecured accounts. Create a list of old accounts you’ve made and ensure the ones you no longer use are closed out. The fewer personal profiles you have online, the less opportunity there is for thieves to extract your information.

    4. Validate Before Paying

    When making an online transaction, it’s critical to take precautions to protect both your financial assets and your identity. Start by ensuring that you are using a secure WiFi connection, then use the following safety tips.

    To validate if an ecommerce site or payment portal is secure:

    • Check for a small lock symbol in front of the site’s URL

    • Confirm that the URL begins with https

    To ensure safety while transacting through payment platforms like Venmo, Zelle, CashApp, and PayPal:

    • Be wary of unsolicited payments or requests for money

    • Only exchange money with people you know and trust

    • Confirm the receiver’s identity before transferring funds

    5. Limit Social Sharing

    Be cautious about oversharing personal details on social media. Personally identifiable information to avoid includes your:

    • Home address

    • Workplace

    • School

    • Phone number

    • Birthday

    It’s also advisable to set social media accounts to private so you can control who is able to view your profile, send you messages, and interact with your posts.

    6. Look Out for Fake Profiles

    False profiles can be found nearly anywhere online, from social media platforms to gaming sites to dating apps. These can be used as phishing scams to collect personal or financial data, along with a host of other more sinister crimes. Be careful about who you communicate with online, and validate a person’s identity before you share any information.

    7. Deny Third-Party Access

    Many mobile applications allow users to sign in using third-party apps, such as their Facebook account or Apple ID. This makes your profile information more vulnerable, so it's worth the extra step of creating a separate login.

    If you do enable third-party logins, check the terms and conditions to see what permissions you are allowing. Avoid red flags such as the ability to post on your behalf and access to view or share your personal information.

    8. Be Smart With Your Smart Devices

    Internet of Things (IoT) devices, like smart speakers, doorbells, security systems, and even refrigerators, are becoming increasingly popular in homes. However, retailers often ship them with minimal security provisions, making it easy to hack into the devices and the networks they’re connected to.

    Take these steps to protect your information when using smart devices:

    • Purchase from a reputable manufacturer

    • Change the default passwords during device setup

    • Install firmware updates regularly

    • Limit device permissions to only access necessary information

    9. Use a VPN

    A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts a device’s browsing data by routing it through a remote server, rather than a public network. If you’re connecting to public WiFi at coffee shops, hotels, or airports, a VPN is particularly important.

    A VPN can also give you peace of mind and improve Internet safety in your home. Plus, with a VPN, your Internet service provider will be unable to access or sell your personal data. Some common and inexpensive VPN service providers to consider include ExpressVPN, Surfshark, and NordVPN.

    10. Install Anti-Virus Software

    Anti-virus software can detect and remove common malware, providing a base level of protection for your browsing devices. Don’t skip out on this basic Internet safety tip. Take advantage of free resources like McAfee Security Scan, Microsoft Safety Scanner, and Webroot Secure Anywhere Antivirus.

    Bonus Internet Safety Tip: Learn Cybersecurity Skills and Become a Pro

    If you feel passionate about Internet safety, a career in cybersecurity may be right for you. By learning cybersecurity skills, you’ll know how to keep individuals and organizations safe from ever-evolving cyber threats. Plus, becoming a cybersecurity professional opens the door to a variety of exciting career paths in the field.

    To learn more about how to become a cybersecurity professional, explore the Fullstack Academy Cybersecurity Analytics Bootcamp. This live online program will prepare you with the latest knowledge, tools, and skills to join the global fight against cybercrime!

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