Important Online Safety Tips Every Internet User Should Know

the wonder of the internet

The Internet, a global network that connects us to each other and also to many online resources, is probably one of the most wonderful inventions of mankind. It has become one of the most powerful tools for everyone.

Today, most people are almost always connected to the Internet through their smartphones. The Internet offers enormous opportunities to do good and also to do evil. It is just a neutral tool. How you use it is up to you.

The opportunity to learn is one of the best things the Internet has to offer. You can learn almost anything from the Internet. I know many Bhutanese who have successfully learned how to create websites, edit videos, do graphic design, bake cakes and cook various dishes from Youtube.

Whether you are a business owner or a person with a skill, the Internet offers you the opportunity to improve your business or provide services to others using your skills. A writer could start a blog or start writing content for others for a fee. An artist could start a website showcasing their arts and find buyers from far and wide, and now they can even convert them into NFTs (non-fungible tokens). A plumber could advertise his services to more people using a Facebook page. Business owners can take advantage of digital marketing to attract more customers. The possibilities are endless.

But along with opportunities come risks when you’re online. Anything you do online is exposed to others unless you are careful about your personal data and what you post online.

Data privacy defines who has access to data, especially your personal data, while data protection deals with tools and policies to restrict access to data by unauthorized individuals or groups. For example, in regulations like the GDPR in Europe, a person has full rights over their personal data, and others should only be able to access it with their own permission. This is data privacy. On the other hand, the agencies that collect our personal information, such as banks, telecommunications companies or government departments, have a duty to ensure that the personal data they collect is securely protected and not compromised. This is data protection. Privacy and data protection are very important as our online and offline lives become more and more intertwined.

Why privacy and data protection are important

Privacy and data protection is important because it can be associated with sensitive personal information that you would not want others to know. Would you like your personal information, such as your medical and health information, employment status, personal assets, etc., to be made public? Let’s say you’ve applied for a certain position and you haven’t been shortlisted. Do you agree if that agency publishes this information with your identifiable data online?

According to experts, the protection and privacy of the aata generally apply to personal health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII). You can read more about these topics by searching online with these keywords.

Key online safety tips

Avoid being a victim of phishing attacks

The practice of sending a fraudulent message that appears to come from a trusted source with the intention of misleading the recipient is called ‘phishing’. Many Bhutanese have become victims of phishing. A common phishing attack comes from hacked email, Facebook or WhatsApp accounts where the hacker asks close friends and family to share OTPs or send them money with very compelling reasons.

To avoid falling victim to such scams, always confirm by calling your friend or family member directly if you receive requests to share OTPs or send money urgently from them. People working in the accounts department should always double-check emails related to cross-border fund transfers in case there are phishing attempts to divert funds to the wrong accounts. Such attacks have occurred in the past. Keep in mind that phishing attacks can come disguised as an email or message from your bank, Internet service provider, or email service provider.

Be careful who you meet online

The people you meet online are not always who they say they are. There have been cases in the past where Bhutanese were asked by their online friends to act as intermediaries to receive and send packages with dubious contents to the final destination for a small financial reward. If the content turns out to be ‘drugs’, this could lead to lengthy prison terms. Therefore, do not become an accomplice of online friends for such acts.

Take care of your online presence

Nowadays, one of the first things employers do is look at your Facebook, Instagram or other social media accounts to try to understand what kind of person you are. There have been many cases around the world where potential candidates lost their chances of being hired because of what they had posted online in the past. So while it’s important that you stay authentic and don’t give off a false impression, it’s equally important that a single drunk photo of you with your friends doesn’t ruin your future career opportunities.

One expert advises: “Any comment or image you post online can stay online forever because removing the original (for example, from Twitter) doesn’t remove any copies that other people have made. There’s no way to “take back” a comment you wish you hadn’t made, or get rid of that embarrassing selfie you took at a party. Don’t put anything online that you wouldn’t want your mom or a potential employer to see.”

Use safe browsing practices

Web browsers and social networking applications have settings available to protect your privacy online. Please enable these privacy protections and keep them enabled at all times. Marketers and hackers love to know everything about you.

Second, don’t visit dangerous sites online. Because people are easily attracted to porn, cybercriminals use it as bait. So be especially careful if you visit a lot of porn sites. Also, stop clicking on all the pop-up ads that appear. And don’t download unnecessary software that looks suspicious or comes from a site you don’t trust. “A primary goal of cybercriminals is to trick you into downloading malware, programs or applications that contain malware, or attempt to steal information. This malware can be disguised as an app: anything from a popular game to something that checks traffic or weather,” says one expert.

Choose strong passwords and protect them very carefully

Most cybersecurity breaches or hacks are the result of password leaks. Therefore, choose them carefully and change them frequently. Don’t use the same passwords for different email or social media accounts. Nowadays, we have so many passwords to remember that it is practically impossible to remember them all. So use password managers like lastpass.com.

Make sure your passwords are not saved in web browsers on shared computers. If you allow your friends to use your computer and if you have their passwords saved in your web browser settings, they can see it.

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