The internet is everywhere in the modern world, used in personal, professional, and educational settings. Children learn how to operate a touch screen before they can talk, and older children enjoy various games and educational materials at their fingertips. But with the ubiquity of the internet comes the ubiquity of security concerns and cyber threats. These threats led to the development of Safer Internet Day, a campaign designed to encourage everybody – from kids to parents to educators – to play their part in creating a better internet.
Here I highlight the importance of this initiative and provide tips for staying safe online.
What is Safer Internet Day?
Held annually in early February, Safer Internet Day is a global event coordinated by the Insafe/INHOPE Network in Brussels with the European Commission’s support. In the United States, the event’s official host is ConnectSafely, a Silicon Valley nonprofit dedicated to educating users of connected technology about safety, privacy, and security. The goal of Safer Internet Day is to create a safer and better internet by raising awareness of how to use technology responsibly and respectfully.
Why is Safer Internet Day Important?
As of 2019, over 85% of people living in developed countries used the internet making them potential victims of cybercrimes, including identify theft, financial theft, intellectual property violations, malware, and malicious social engineering. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 2019 also saw a peak of 3.2 million identity theft reports, most of which occurred due to internet use and nearly a quarter of which resulted in financial loss. In other words, cybercrime can cause all sorts of damage, meaning it’s essential for everyone who uses the internet to protect themselves, their data, and any devices they might have access to, whether at home, school, or work. Safer Internet Day promotes awareness of these potential threats and distributes resources and information that helps people engage in safer online practices.
Safer Internet Tips
Safer Internet Day provides an opportunity to reflect on your internet usage and safety practices. Here we provide a list of tips to help you get started:
Educate and Encourage Positive Change
- Instruct your family and friends on keeping their personally identifiable information (PII) private online by encouraging them not to share their real names with strangers or give out information about where they live.
- Establish clear online rules for children and teens to follow; this could include creating lists of approved websites and applications or requiring parental approval for certain activities.
- Ensure everyone in the family understands the importance of strong passwords, how to create them, and why they should not share those passwords with anyone else. Other password best practices include making a different password for each account, avoiding common phrases, and including numbers and special characters.
- Talk to your family about media literacy and how to spot unauthentic sources and potential scams.
- Discuss what phishing attempts are and how to identify them. Make it clear that no one should click on a suspect link or open unexpected attachments.
- Encourage children and teens to come to a trusted adult if they are unsure about something they find on the internet or have concerns about a particular website or interaction.
Get Ahead of Potential Threats
- Review apps that you and your family use and discuss any safety concerns about usage.
- Install proper anti-virus software and other security features such as parental controls on your devices to prevent threats.
- Leverage VPN technology in order to establish online anonymity and enhance security when browsing on public networks.
- Monitor that online purchases are made from secure sites. Recent threat research from FortiGuard Labs shows that ecommerce platforms are often targeted by cybercriminals.
Final Thoughts on Best Practices to Follow This Safer Internet Day
Creating an online presence can open the door for various cyberthreats, from social engineering attacks to data breaches. By taking the appropriate steps and following certain best practices, everyone can create an internet that is more secure for everybody, from children to adults.
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