From time to time people ask me “Why is Internet safety important?” “Why should I worry about it? I’ve got nothing to hide.” If you’re not thinking that Internet safety is important, then you’re making a mistake.
There’s a variety of reasons that people think Internet safety and security don’t really matter for them — maybe they don’t think they keep anything important on their computer, so even if someone got into their computer they wouldn’t find anything; they may not realize that wherever they go on the Internet they leave tracks and clues about themselves; they may just never have thought about it at all.
Now the Internet is a wonderful thing, and I use it constantly every day without fear, but that doesn’t mean I use it heedlessly and without thinking about Internet safety.
When you’re on the Web, you should think of it kind of like walking down the street — if you live in a small town you probably don’t think much about walking around downtown, and you probably feel pretty safe.
And even if you live in a big city, you may feel pretty comfortable, too, since you know your way around and you know how to handle yourself.
But on the other hand, how would you feel walking down the street in the most crime-ridden part of a bad city in the middle of the night by yourself, dragging your wallet or purse on a string behind you while heedlessly listening to music on headphones and never looking at your surroundings?
The thing people don’t realize about Internet security is that even if you live in a safe, secure small town with no crime, when you go on the Internet there is no real border between the “good neighborhoods” and the “bad neighborhoods”, so you need to take a few basic precautions to protect yourself on the Web.
Here are a few suggestions:
1) Make sure you use a good firewall program on your computer; regardless of whether you use a Windows PC or one of Apple’s Macs, this is absolutely essential
2) If you have DSL or cable Internet access, get a router and hook it up between your DSL or cable modem and your computer. Not only does a router allow you to share the connection between multiple computers, it also has a firewall built in to it, which adds another layer of valuable protection against threats from the Internet. And yes, this should be *in addition* to the firewall program on your computer
3) If you have a Windows PC, make sure you have a good antivirus program such as Kaspersky antivirus, that is still activated and up-to-date. Many people have poor quality antivirus programs and it’s common for them to have expired after a trial period or the yearly subscription has run out, which means they’re no longer protecting you.
Mac users do not at this time need an antivirus program, but this will likely change in the future.
4) Use a strong password, preferably a mix of letters and numbers that is at least 8 characters long, and which is not easy to guess like your name or a pet’s name, etc., and don’t use the same password for everything.
5) If you post in public forums online, or use a social networking website like Facebook, don’t put too much personal information in your profile.
It is extremely common for people to share all kinds of information about themselves on their profile page, including birth date, pet names, children’s names, address, etc. — all of which might give a clue to passwords, answers to those “reset your password” security questions that you’re asked if you forget your password on a website, and other clues that could be used for identity theft.
Most social networking sites let you set your profile to private, so only people you’ve added as friends can see what’s on the profile. This is also a good idea.
6) Remember that email is not truly private, any more than a postcard is, so never put credit card numbers, social security numbers, etc. in an email
7) Do your Windows Updates (PCs) or Software Updates (Mac) regularly to keep your computer’s software current and “patched” so security holes have been fixed.
These are just a few reasons you need to be safe on the Internet. Hopefully these safety tips will help you remain secure online and have helped answer the question “why is Internet safety important?”.