There is no doubt that internet has made our lives easier. The advancements in technology have changed the way we communicate, and the way we do business. How we run our social and personal lives at the moment has nothing to do with what was happening a few years ago. However, because of that, Internet can also threaten us with spam, identity theft, invasion of privacy and cyber espionage.

This is why online safety is critical for today’s inter-connected world. It is high time we focused on the positive facet of the digitalized life and learned how to safely browse the Internet.

It comes as no surprise that countless threats are trying to find new ways of compromising our devices where our personal information is stored. Most people would think that visiting a website is like reading a book, but there is much going on in the background that we are certainly not aware of. The data transferred between our devices and the website that we visit, pass through several other computers. For this reason, we are vulnerable to interception at any given moment.

At the moment, the most common threat is “phishing”: the type of information theft using deception. What happens is that we get tricked into thinking that we are using the original and legitimate website, and then we are somehow persuaded or made to give our personal information.

A more widespread threat is malware infection. Websites can harbour all sorts of nasty viruses, Trojans, spyware, and adware. Some even without the site owner’s knowledge, as malware writers have become very good at injecting their creations into legitimate web pages.

So, what can you do in order to browse the internet safely?

#1 Be careful what files you download

Be careful to not download applications or attachments from “suspicious” websites and sources. Such actions can be the source of virus or malware infection. For this reason, we should download applications only from reputable sources. Also, it is important to scan files for viruses before we click on them. In case we got tricked in downloading an unsafe file, we must cancel the process as soon as possible in the download toolbar.

#2 Use the best security software

Antivirus and firewall protection is critical for maintaining online hygiene. No matter how “careful” we are or how smart we think we are about the links and the files that we click, having a strong and up to date security software is critical. Even in the most “secure” and reputable websites, threats can be well hidden. It is worth investing in a smart antivirus platform that ensures our protection. Today, the most reputable antivirus software solutions use big data and AI in order to monitor running applications and detect/prevent the attacks well before happening.

#3 Consider using an AD blocker

According to studies, 42% of users globally have installed an ad blocker in their devices. An ad blocker is a tool that uses a number of filters to block specific content, remove distracting ads, block fake news, and thus making it easier to read a website. Except from the user’s convenience, ad blocker also removes the “malvertising” noise and prevents us from downloading dangerous content, since many ads contain malware by “hiding” it.

#4 Use a strong password

It comes as no surprise that the stronger our password is, the more protected we will be from malicious activities. We should avoid using dates, phone numbers, favorite movies, and sports teams as our password since it is very easy for someone to break or even guess. A strong password should contain special characters, symbols, digits, uppercase letters etc.

#5 Enable two-factor authentication (2FA)

It’s the simplest, most effective way to verify that your users are who they say they are. Two-factor authentication is a specific type of multi-factor authentication (MFA) that strengthens access security by requiring two methods to verify our identity. These factors can include something only we know – like a username and password – plus something we have – like a smartphone app – to approve authentication requests.

2FA protects against phishing, social engineering and password brute-force attacks and secures your logins from attackers exploiting weak or stolen credentials. Therefore, enabling it will certainly increase the security of our accounts on the internet. Even if somebody guesses our password, they won’t be able to access your account.

#6 Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Most VPN users cite security and privacy reason when choosing this option. VPN is seen as an opportunity to establish a protected network connection when using public networks.

VPN typically works as an intermittent service between us and the host website that we are visiting. It encrypts our data and hides our real IP address. Normally, our information can be viewed by everyone who has network access. However, if our information is encrypted, hackers cannot decrypt our information and thus we are safe.

#7 Be aware of suspicious URLs

As a user, it is important to make sure that the websites we’re visiting are secure. A quick tip is to pay attention to the left side of the web address. If we see a lock sign, it means that the connection is secure. On the contrary, the exclamation marks tell us that the connection is not secure. The info sign means that the site is not using a private connection.

In addition, we can observe if the website starts with “HTTP” or “HTTPS”. The difference between the two, is that HTTPS uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) in order to encrypt normal HTTP requests and responses. HTTPS is far more secure: if browsers use HTTPS to pass information, it means that the data cannot be read by hackers.