By Cassie Phillips
Special Contributor to In Homeland Security
Due to the surge of popularity of the internet and what it has to offer, you might come across some security risks while browsing the net. Even worse is the rise in cyberstalking, which is now more common than physical stalking and harassment, probably due to the anonymity of being able to harass others over social media versus in person.
The good news is that it doesn’t take much to avoid these problems. A few simple steps can put you out of danger’s reach on the net. A combination of security software and safe practices will allow you to enjoy the net without having to look over your shoulder.
Online Security Software
Above all, it’s important to have the right tools. Because so much of what happens online is difficult to perceive, having safeguards in place can really go a long way. You’ll want to start with an anti-virus program; though they’re usually included on PCs (at least, a free trial), other devices may not have them pre-installed.
Good and free options include AVG, Avast!, and Panda. All are free for personal use and can be installed across various different devices. A good anti-virus program will help keep you safe from malware that can be used for identity theft and to damage your device.
Although a lesser known service, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is arguably even more important than an anti-virus. These VPNs allow you to connect to the internet anonymously via a remote server, encrypting your connection and preventing hackers from intercepting and stealing your information. According to Secure Thoughts, a VPN is one of the best ways to be secure online.
As an added bonus, you’ll also be able to access geo-restricted content. Services range in price and effectiveness, but ExpressVPN is currently one of the best.
A common mistake made while using the net is believing that interactions are the same as offline. Unlike face-to-face interactions, everything you do on the internet is forever. Once something goes on the internet, it can be extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible to get it removed.
That means posting personal information, photos you wouldn’t normally want someone else to see, or starting arguments can lead to a lot of headaches. Sharing private information can lead to identity theft and is one of the number one ways cyberstalkers can begin tracking their victims.
Thieves have also made good use of oversharing. Travelers hoping to share the fun of their trips and vacations occasionally post photos and information about their adventures. Unfortunately, real-time posting also lets burglars following your feed know that you aren’t at home, so it may be best to hold off until you’ve returned home.
When using social media services, restrict who you allow to see your posts and keep what you share to a minimum. Consider having separate accounts for family and for public interaction. It can be tempting and even entertaining to have 1,000 “friends,” but it quickly becomes very difficult to manage who is seeing what.
Beware of Trolls
Some users are just on the net for cheap thrills. Most internet pranks are harmless, but things can tend to spiral out of control extremely fast if you engage these pranksters. Avoid posting inflammatory responses or acting in a way you would not act in person.
This goes double for highly public services, such as Twitter. When anyone can see and respond to you, posting angry can quickly attract a crowd. Hecklers can quickly ruin your day if you let them, so the best thing to do is simply not to engage negativity. Remember that there’s simply no winning an argument on the internet.
Cyberbullying doesn’t just happen to kids. Fortunately, as an adult, you can have the foresight to know when to call it quits and unplug until things die down. Bullies and trolls quickly become bored when disengaged.
Play it Smart
While there will always be criminals looking to ruin someone else’s day, that someone doesn’t have to be you. Invest in good software, be careful what you put on the net, and you’ll do fine. Enjoy what the internet has to offer.
About the Author: Cassie Phillips is a blogger and internet security expert who has been inspired to share her tips about security with others. Having encountered malware in the past, she has taken an interest in learning and sharing ways to stay safe while online so others can enjoy the benefits of what the web has to offer instead of dealing with the risks. Cassie also contributes to www.securethoughts.com.