World Safer Internet Day

Tuesday, February 6, is World Safer Internet Day, an annual observation where organizations, schools, and businesses spend time emphasizing the importance of staying safe in the online world.

“Together for a Better Internet” is this year’s theme.

Many of us spend too much time worried about the wrong things. Worries such as whether Facebook listens to our conversations or about TVs knowing what we watch, or Google tracking what we search for and our location. While these things should make us uncomfortable, there are six things we should worry about when it comes to our online lives. At least six things that, if we do pay close attention to, there will be less to worry about.

1. Clicking on links. Whether it’s in an email or Facebook message, a click on the wrong link can install malware on a computer that can steal financial information and data, and even track everything, every keystroke.

2. Doing anything with credit cards or bank websites on public WiFi networks, including shopping. Rather than using the free Internet in a restaurant or coffee shop, turn off WiFi and use your data or cellular service. Make sure you see 5G or LTE in the upper right-hand corner of your smartphone screen. When using a laptop, connect to your phone’s hotspot.

3. Using the same password for everything. This should go without saying. If someone steals one password, they get all of your passwords. Set new and unique passwords for each account.

4. Engaging with scam phone calls and emails. Hang up or don’t answer if it’s a number you don’t recognize. Many people seem to like “messing” with robo and spam callers. Resist the urge and just ignore the call.

5. Logging into any account through a link you get in a message or email. Rather than logging in from a link, use the bank, credit card, or social media app to access the account. Scammers love sending messages and emails asking you to log in through a link. Oftentimes the link isn’t directly to the account but to a fake website that grabs your username and password.

6. Sharing pictures with strangers you meet online. This is especially important for middle and high school students. Some of the most dangerous scams involve persuading young people to share risqué or nude photos with someone they meet online. Those scammers then extort more explicit photos or money by threatening to send the photos to friends and family members.

World Safer Internet Day is a great name to raise awareness but I prefer just calling it “Be Careful Online” day.