Authored by Vonny Gamot
The official 40th birthday of the internet serves as a timely reminder that while it is a fantastic place, we must practice good digital hygiene to safeguard our privacy and identity so we can protect ourselves from the latest threats.
Since its widely recognized creation on January 1st 1983, the internet has since transformed economies and the everyday lives of people. From social media, memes, and viral videos to smart homes, online shopping and even cloud computing, the internet entertains, educates, and connects us. Above all, it will continue to play a crucial role in human civilization for many generations to come.
Yet with the good comes the not-so-good. Wherever people gather, cyberthieves gather too. The internet is no exception. As the evolution of the internet continues, cybercriminals are evolving in tandem, looking for new and inventive ways, such as using Artificial Intelligence to exploit its features. With over five billion people accessing and using the Internet in 2022, that’s over 60% of the world’s population potentially at risk.
So, while we celebrate the internet’s 40th birthday, it’s also a good reminder to take stock of the latest online threats and ensure our digital hygiene is up to scratch for the year ahead. When we do this, we can take full advantage of the incredible opportunities the internet affords us.
The new year is a great moment to reflect, reset, and consider your personal online safety and protection. Stay vigilant against the latest threats and scams and use dedicated and robust online protection software such as our newly released McAfee+ plans—which comes with important features like identity monitoring that can spot your personal info on the dark web and personal data cleanup that can help remove your personal info from data broker sites that will sell it to companies and crooks alike.
It’s also a time to keep a fresh eye out for scams and phishing attacks. If that email, text, or message you received looks too good to be true, or you feel that the sender is trying to pressure you into doing sharing info or sending money, it’s always best to double check that the source is legitimate. These are often indicators that a scam is afoot.
Four easy things you can do today to improve your safety online
Beyond using online protection software and keeping your guard up, you can take several other steps that can make you immediately safer than you were before. Here are four strong suggestions that will get you started:
1) Use Multifactor Authentication (MFA)
MFA is an excellent way to frustrate cybercriminals attempting to break into online accounts. MFA means that users need more than a username and password to log in, for example, a one-time code sent to private email, text, or through an authentication app utilizing face or fingerprint scans. This adds an extra layer of security as the cybercriminal has to access the device, email, or biometric reader to get into someone’s online account.
2) Set strong passwords and consider a password manager
Strong, unique passwords for each of your online accounts are a must. It’s always important for people to understand that reusing passwords is just as risky as using “password123” and puts online accounts at risk. A tactic known as “credential stuffing” is where a cybercriminal attempts to input stolen usernames and password combinations in dozens of random websites to see which door it opens. It is also important to consider using password managers which can create and safeguard all passwords in one secure desktop extension or mobile phone app.
3) Update your apps, operating systems, and devices
Updating software is vital to the security of a device. These updates include security patches that cyber experts have created to foil cybercriminals. The more outdated the software is, the more time criminals have had to work out ways to infiltrate and steal information within them. Moreover, updates often include new and improved features, which makes a strong case for keeping things current.
4) Recognise and report phishing
Phishing is when a scammer sends texts or emails that appear to be from trusted sources like your favourite online clothing store, employer or, as we’re seeing during the cost-of-living crisis, energy firms, or banks. They do this to encourage people to share personal information.
Once a phishing attempt has been recognised it is vital that they are not engaged with, links are left unopened, and the potential scam email is not forwarded along to another person. Before the message is deleted, it is vital that the sender is blocked and that the message is marked as junk and reported.
If you think that you have entered your credit card details onto a phishing website, contact your bank or credit card issuing company immediately. Report your personal information as stolen, and you may want to request that your existing card be canceled depending on the circumstances.
Staying safer still in 2023—and then some
Online protection is part mindset, part prevention, and part action. While the steps above mark a start, they’re just that. There’s plenty more you can do, and when taken in batches, the steps you take can really add up to an exceptional level of protection. The question is, where to start?
Our McAfee Safety Series can get you moving in the right direction. It’s a set of guides that cover a range of important security topics and that show you several straightforward things you can do that will make you safer. They range from phishing and privacy to online shopping and safer online media. In all, they can help you spot scams, hacks, and attacks—and potentially prevent them in the first place.
I encourage you to grab the first one that looks interesting to you. What you learn can put you several steps ahead of the hackers, scammers, and thieves out there.