Tips on how to stay safe online

Tips on how to stay safe online

With the rise of the platform economy worldwide, where a growing number of businesses are operating on online platforms, it creates both opportunities and threats in our daily lives. Online platforms make it possible for us to skip bank queues, get groceries delivered to our doorstep and apply for jobs online. As with all progress where there are opportunities, some will seek to take advantage. In this article we look at some of the ways you can stay safe online. 

We are all at risk of cyber fraud, it is not just the rich and famous that are under threat. At RecruitMyMom, we value the privacy of our mom’s and take great care in securing the information stored on our database. More than that, we care about our candidates' safety so want to share some insight about cyber attacks and what you can do to protect yourself in this article.

Read more about the POPIA Act from an employer’s perspective here.

What are cyber attacks and why should you care about them?

The two main reasons why you as an individual may be targeted by a cyber attack is to steal your money or to obtain your personal information. The world of online fraud is constantly shifting, especially as technology advances. There are a number of other ways that fraudsters may connect with you in order to gain access to your personal information or money. 

Malware or online phishing scams 

Hackers may install malware onto your computer or use phishing schemes to access your passwords and obtain your personal information. 

Malware is code that gets installed on your computer that provides the hacker with access to your personal files. A common case is where the hacker holds your personal information and files ransom. This means that they will block access to your personal files on your computer, such as medical documents or photos of your family, and will only provide access once you have paid a ransom fee.

Phishing schemes are what hackers commonly use to get a hold of your passwords. Often these come into your email inbox and request you to follow a link to change your password.

Read more on different types of cyber attacks

Cyber attacks can lead to people losing substantial savings or putting a company at risk when hackers access work files. It is important to be aware of the risks and to manage your personal information with care.

Compassion or romance scams

Another example of a cyber crime would be for someone to request money due to unfortunate circumstances, a charity donation request or they will form a romantic connection with someone online just to get cash or access to personal information. These ‘compassion’ scams are made up stories to try and get people to feel sorry for them or emotionally connected so that they can take advantage of unsuspecting victims. 

Read more on different types of bank related scams here

What to watch out for

  1. When you receive an email prompting you to follow a link to sign in, always check the sender's email address to make sure you recognise it.

  2. When you sign in to any website with a password, the URL must have the “s” after http - https. The ‘s’ stands for secure.

  3. Receiving a password change notification which you did not request.

  4. Unsolicited emails advertising deals which request you to follow a link.

  5. When you enter competitions online, make sure the website is a legitimate URL. 

  6. Do not give out any personal information or money to strangers online, or people who you cannot verify. 

What to do to keep safe

Staying safe online is often more about awareness than anything else. Take some time to read up on the latest online safety tips and be watchful through news channels and by doing your own Google searches. 

Install an antivirus software onto your computer

Install an antivirus programme that assists you while browsing by letting you know when a website is questionable. See this example from McAfee of how they notify users that websites are safe.

McAfee Screenshot

Another useful tool you can use is the Web Of Trust. It is a plug-in you can install on your browser that provides a peer-review security check of a website.

It is essential to always keep your computer software updated. Your software supplier ensures that the latest technology is uploaded to your device to protect it.

Stay informed and share information with loved ones

It is important to inform children, the elderly and loved ones about the risks on the internet. For instance, children should be advised not to download apps or games from links, but rather to go through the registered Google Play or Apple App store which is verified by Play Protect. It might be helpful for you to install Apps you trust on devices for your children until you are comfortable with their online safety.

Keep your passwords strong and secure

Ensure that your passwords are strong, especially for proprietary sites like your bank account.  Here are some password tips:

  1. Identify your important accounts and ensure they have unique passwords not shared with any other account.

  2. A great tip from The Muse. Change your password to something inspirational that you will remember, like 67kgsbySummer.

  3. Do not use passwords which are easily guessed based on your personal information. Pets, your spouse, parents or children’s names should not be used.

  4. Hackers are smart, and they know that o and 0 are used interchangeably.

  5. Patterns like “QWERTY” should be avoided.

Most of us know someone or know of someone that has been victim to a cyber attack. It is a good idea to always be on the lookout for suspicious activity. It is not difficult to take precautions to reduce the risk of becoming a victim yourself. 

If you have been a victim of an online crime in South Africa, please ensure you report it to SAPS at your local police station. It’s important that online crime is reported. For more online safety resources please view this article.

Please stay safe and share your tips with us.



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