by Nicholas J. Kohrs

Creating a safe and secure online presence is essential in today’s digital world, where cyber threats are prevalent and come in many different forms. Whether you are using social media, online banking, email or simply browsing the internet on your phone, safeguarding your personal information is paramount. It is critical to remember that the information shared online may have significant implications for your privacy and security. Here are a few ways to establish and maintain a secure online presence:

  • Strong Passwords: Use strong, unique passwords for each of your online accounts. Avoid using easily guessable information such as your name, birthdate or common phrases. Instead, use a combination of letters (both upper and lowercase), numbers and special characters. Consider using a reputable password manager to generate and store complex passwords securely.
  • Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Whenever possible, enable 2FA to reduce the risk of unauthorized access to your account and devices. This provides an additional layer of protection by requiring not only a password but also a secondary form of verification, such as a code sent to your phone or email by an authenticator app.
  • Regular Updates: Keep your antivirus programs, software and operating systems up to date. These updates often include patches for security vulnerabilities and are crucial to protecting your electronic devices from cyber threats. Periodically updating/changing your passwords should also be implemented.
  • Secure Networks: While free public Wi-Fi is abundant, avoid using this type of connection for sensitive activities such as online banking. If public Wi-Fi is your only option, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your internet connection and protect your data from potential eavesdropping.
  • Privacy Settings: Check and adjust the privacy settings on your social media accounts and other online profiles. Limit the amount of personal information you share and make visible, and be cautious about friend requests or connections from people you do not know.
  • Be Wary of Phishing: Exercise caution when clicking on links, scanning QR codes, commenting on threads or downloading attachments in emails, especially those from unknown senders. Phishing attacks often can be hard to spot, disguising themselves as legitimate communications in an attempt to have the user disclose sensitive information, steal credentials or install malware.
  • Regular Backups: Regularly backing up your important data to an external hard drive or cloud storage (e.g., Dropbox, Google Cloud or iCloud) will ensure you will not lose valuable information in the event of a cyberattack or hardware failure.
  • Be Selective with Apps: Only download apps from trusted sources, such as official app stores. Be sure to review the permissions and in-app purchase requirements necessary to function before installing the app.
  • Educate Yourself: Many resources are available, including online courses, articles and tutorials to help you improve your cybersecurity knowledge and stay abreast of current best practices for remaining safe online.
  • Monitor Your Accounts: Regularly check your financial accounts and statements for suspicious activity. Immediately report any unauthorized transactions to your financial institution. Many banks and credit cards now offer credit score monitoring to help alert you to unauthorized financial activity.
  • Social Engineering Awareness: Be aware of social engineering tactics and artificial intelligence (AI) used by cybercriminals to manipulate individuals into divulging sensitive and financial information. Remain skeptical of requests or enticement for personal or financial information, even if they appear to come from a trusted source.
  • Secure Your Devices: Biometric security features (e.g., fingerprint or facial recognition) can be used to prevent the unauthorized use of your device. Additionally, consider enabling remote tracking and wiping capabilities in the event your device is lost or stolen.

By utilizing these strategies and staying vigilant, you can create a safe and secure online presence, protect yourself from cyber threats and minimize your risk of identity theft, financial fraud and other forms of online crime. Cybersecurity is a never-ending process, so it is imperative to regularly review and update your security measures to adapt to new threats and technologies.