Google refreshed its Good to Know online safety website this week, with updated security and privacy tips in honor of Safer Internet Day. The site now has resources to teach parents tech, privacy videos and family safety, and we’re happy to see that Google is taking extra steps to push internet users to develop stronger security habits.
With online identity theft up 200% since 2010, affecting an estimated 43 million Americans in the last year alone, taking small extra steps to protect yourself now can make all the difference.
Here are 7 steps you can take right now to boost your online security:
1. Set up two-step authentication. We always hear that strong passwords will be enough to protect us. But the truth is, at some point in the not-so-distant future, passwords alone will become obsolete. In 2012, Google and Facebook implemented security similar to that of online banking — separate steps to validate you are who you say you are. If you haven’t set up two-factor verification already, do it. Now.
2. Protect Your Wireless Connection. If you’re connecting to the internet via a wireless connection, be sure that connection is password protected. If possible, use strong encryption (WPA) to help prevent your browsing data from being spied on or hacked. Added incentive: if someone is stealing wireless from you and commits a crime, there could actually be legal repercussions for you.
3. Remove your information from People Search databases. SafeShepherd is a great tool for this, combing through “people-search services, criminal background check services and marketing databases” to help identify and remove your personal information from third-party websites that sell it.
4. Set up a “clean” email address. Rather than using the same email address for all of your online activities (emailing family and friends, signing up for mailing lists and coupons, writing reviews, etc.), maintain a clean personal email address to stay in control of the email you’re receiving and from whom. Your email address is tied to dozens of online databases, so this also helps to limit the number of places your personal information is appearing online.
5. Teach your children not to give personal information over the internet. As vigilant as you may be about online security, more often than not, kids simply don’t understand the risks. Have that conversion with them today, and over and over if necessary.
6. Start using the privacy features in your browser. Nearly all security threats come through your browser, but there are steps you can take to drastically reduce those threats. First off, enable automatic updates to your browser. Cyber criminals often look for known security problems in old versions of software. Keeping your browser up to date will boost security on your device. You can also block pop-ups, plug-ins, phishing sites, and remove third-party cookies. Finally, stop setting your browser to store passwords! Get a good password manager like 1Password instead.
7. Use discretion on social networking sites. Privacy controls on your social accounts help, but they’ll never replace good old fashioned discretion. Remember, once you post it, you can never get it back. Are you comfortable with a screenshot of that photo or status update floating around online for all eternity?
What are some other privacy tips that you live by? Stop by Facebook to let us know.