With Safer Internet Day set to arrive again the seventh of February, we all need to review our security basics to “Be the change” and “unite for a better Internet” — which are the themes of this year’s edition of the annual international event to remind us all to spend a little time contemplating online safety.
A safer Internet starts with running updated security software — like F-Secure SAFE — on all your devices, unique, uncrackable passwords for all your important accounts stored in a secure password manager and making backups of your PC, phone and tablet.
But it doesn’t end there.
Sharing things — lots of things with lots of people — is what makes the Internet so great is also what makes it so potentially dangerous.
Everything you do online can be contagious.
If you get hacked by a phishing attack, you could then spread that attack to your entire contact list. Likewise if you fall for a social media scam, your entire feed is now vulnerable to it.
This is why a safer Internet requires all of us to be smart sharers.
There are certain things you should obviously not share — like your (1) passwords for your accounts or Wi-Fi network or the (2) passcodes to your devices. This may be common sense. However, many people still end up sharing information that could help potential crooks from guessing their passwords or security questions on their public social media accounts. This includes (3) pet names, (4) birthdays and (5) names of your childhood schools.
Smart sharing also requires thinking about how photo sharing in new ways.
People who have grown up after the birth of Facebook may feel very differently about creating a trail of images that will likely trail them their entire lives than their parents who grew up not knowing that nearly all phones would would eventually have cameras.
Parents need to think about photo sharing from their kids’ perspective — and vice versa.
The social incentives for sharing images cannot be underestimated. Instagram photos that include a face are “38% more likely to get ‘likes’ than photos without faces.” And the more provocative an image, the more likely it is to provoke a reaction and possibly haunt you for the rest of your life.
This doesn’t mean you need to be paranoid. With hundreds of millions of images uploaded to Facebook every single day, the chances of a photo standing out enough to destroy your life are diluted by sheer abundance.
But photos can give strangers the opportunity to present a false intimacy with you or your children’s lives that could lead to escalating complications and dangers. And any image you share online can easily be downloaded and reshared in other contexts.
This is why Internet safety isn’t just about software and passwords. It’s about knowing how privacy settings work so that you know to whom you’re sharing with. And it’s also about thinking before you click and share.
Because you’re not just keeping yourself safe, you’re protecting your friends, your family and the entire Internet.
[Image by See-ming Lee | Flickr]