The internet seems a young person’s world. After all, the people under 30 grew up with this constant sense of connection. For people who came to the internet later in life, the recommended security and privacy measures that have become as natural as “don’t talk to strangers” may not only seem like a foreign language, they may not even exist on the radar.
Just because you do not know about the potential risks does not mean they aren’t real. The Federal Trade Commission claimed 1.4 million cases of identity theft and fraud in 2018, and the number goes up every year. Also, that is not the only type of security issue you may face when you journey through the online world.
Avoiding these problems comes down to keeping your information private and safe. These online privacy tips for older internet users will get you started on the right track and may just prevent financial disaster.
It starts with the basics of smart internet use…
Smart and Safe Surfing Tips
Just like you would tell a kid to not walk alone down the dark path through the woods or warn visiting friends against driving down that certain street in the city, you have to recognize that the internet is full of dangerous places, too. Some websites, social media platforms, email servers, and other services online are secure and some are not.
How do you tell? First of all, use your common sense. A well-known brand in the real world will undoubtedly care about your security on its online site. It is the difference between buying a product at an established shopping mall compared to buying one from the back of someone’s van.
Trust browsers like Firefox and Chrome to identify unsecured sites to a point. Websites that use SSL encryption get through while others are frequently blocked. Look for an “S” in the “HTTPS” at the start of the website address.
Consider using a browser-based ad blocker plug-in. For one thing, it makes surfing online much less annoying. It can also block potentially dangerous pop-ups and ads with malware attached. Malware is malicious software that wants to get your information or mess up your computer in some way.
For more information for seniors looking to stay safe and secure online, AARP put out a book called My Online Privacy for Seniors. It’s an easy-to-understand guide for older adults looking to protect their data online. It provides relevant examples, step-by-step guides, large text and screenshots for explaining concepts.
Passwords Only Work If They’re Secure
Hackers do not really exist as you see in the movies. There are very few bug-eyed shut-ins typing furiously on their computers trying to access your information personally while strange lights and cyberspace graphics fly across their screens. The people who want your information use sophisticated programs and systems to infiltrate your accounts and personal data.
How do you block them? The first line of defense is choosing a password that no one could guess and programs will not come up with quickly using a random number or word generator.
Examples of really bad passwords include:
- 1111111, 2222222, etc.
- 12345, 54321, etc.
- Spouse, child’s, pet’s name, birthday, or other easily discovered information
- Common phrases like “password,” “givemeaccess,” or “myemail”
How to create a secure password:
- Use random letters, numbers, and symbols like 7Ak#62LmT8
- Make it longer than five digits at least
- Remember a sentence and use the first letters. “My 2nd daughter learned to flip in gymnastics when she was 9″ becomes M2dLtfinGwsw9. You can remember it, but it’s very hard to guess.
Block the Bad Stuff Automatically
Online security for older people may not feel like second nature, so using automatic programs that help you avoid a lot of the potentially dangerous situations makes sense. Keep your browsers updated so you know all the latest security features are in place and active. Maintain updates on commercially available security and antivirus programs like McAfee, Norton, or Kapersky. Consider using a malware blocker, too. Windows and Mac computers both have a built-in Firewall for protection against possibly dangerous applications or programs.
In your browsers, include trusted ad blocker plugins that have high ratings and a lot of verifiable reviews. These can help you avoid potentially dangerous clicks that could lead you to the dark and dangerous side of the online landscape. You can also protect your email inbox by setting up strict anti-spam rules.
Know How You’re Connecting
To a lot of people who did not grow up learning about the internet in school, it may seem more like high-tech magic than a comprehensible system. Of course, you can learn many things about how the internet actually works, but most people just want to send emails, check their bank balances, play a few games, and connect with family and friends on social media.
To do all of this securely, however, you have to understand how you connect to it all. A home-based computer usually has a long cord connecting it to cable or fiber optic services. Some older systems still use phone lines, too. These are all as secure as the company service makes them. If you have wireless availability in your home, ensure security by using encrypted password access for your modem. The same measures apply to any cellular phone service and related access.
One of the most potentially dangerous activities is connecting to the internet through public WiFi at the library, a restaurant, hotel, or other location. These open networks allow anyone on, which means you are more vulnerable. Never share personal information, access your bank accounts, or engage in business transactions when you connect like this.
Read More: The Best VPNs for Privacy in 2019
Recognize and Avoid Scams
Ultimately, your online security comes down in large part to how good you are at noticing potential problems. Putting all the automatic protections in place helps a great deal, of course, but you could still unwittingly stumble upon something dangerous without realizing it.
Never give out personal information. Maintain ‘friends only’ status on social media, especially when it comes to sharing your schedule or photos. Never click directly on ads or links that seem to lead you to odd places. If you want to learn more about a product or website, go to Google and search for it personally.
Online security for older people follows all the same protocols as it does for anyone else. However, when identity theft and cybercrimes against seniors continue to expand at an alarming rate, taking extra precautions makes sense.