Protect yourself online – 5 ways to stay safe in the digital world
The internet is a big place and sometimes it can feel overwhelming and unsafe. Hacked computers, stolen data, and other security breaches on the internet seem to be a part of the daily news. While it is important to be aware of the risks, we want to focus on the positive side of digital life while creating protective internet habits for your organization. Let’s dive deeper into the world we visit every day and learn to take precautions with these tips.
Look to the lock
Most of the websites today use encrypted communication between your device and the server, which makes it difficult to eavesdrop on the data being exchanged back and forth. You can see which sites use this encryption by looking at the first five letters in front of the URL. If the URL starts with https:// encryption for this site is turned on.
In your browser, you also see a little lock symbol on the left of the URL, if you click on it, the site certificate is shown. This guarantees that the site you are on is really delivered from a server that is owned by the company listed in the certificate, and not spoofed.
Know your download etiquette
Viruses can often hide in unsafe downloads. Make sure you only download files from trusted sites and stay clear from files with extensions .exe or .scr, these may be more dangerous. If you click on a link, and without a warning or extra confirmation dialog, a download starts, go to the download menu and check if you find something unusual in the download folder.
Think twice before clicking on links
There are thousands of malicious websites being created every day. There may be pop-ups or links that look safe, but you should always double check. Most browsers give you some extra information on links if you hover above them with your mouse. If the address that is revealed by hovering over a link looks suspicious, think twice before clicking on it.
Detect and react to digital emergencies
Being active online means always practicing vigilance. When visiting new websites or getting emails from senders outside of your organization, there are a couple things to look out for before forging ahead.
- Typos and/or damaged logo
- Special characters between letters and numbers
- You receive a message from a service provider that account security has been breached and you should immediately log on to fix it
These situations are precursors to a potential digital emergency. If you have already detected that there might be something wrong such as downloaded malware or clicked on a fraudulent link, the next steps are:
- Communicate: Inform your colleagues, management, and IT-support whenever you notice something suspicious or an incident that might be critical.
- Get Help: Don’t be shy to ask experts in your company or tech savvy colleagues. No system is perfect and any feedback of possible security flaws is helpful.
- Reach out to Tech Supporters: Have a contact list of tech support or external experts at hand, to alert them immediately in case of an emergency.
The digital world is always changing and staying up to date is the best way to keep yourself safe. Going beyond these tips and taking a more in-depth course can support you in developing good internet habits. We’ve created a course on the basics of Digital Self Defense, to help you ease this sense of threat and vulnerability by introducing the basic notions of security, privacy, and self-defense for a foundation of protection: https://digital-self-defense.org/
Since August 2020, Kiron has been building a digital learning platform providing content and a digital community to improve the online safety of civil society actors. In 2021, we launched the Digital Self Defense Center (DSDC) — an open learning resource to help civil society actors especially journalists, activists, members of civil rights organizations, or cultural mediators take matters of internet security and privacy into their own hands. The course is available in both Spanish and English.