4 ways to play your part for a safer Internet

In commemoration of Safer Internet Day, we recommend four practices to improve online safety and security.
Yesterday, 9 February, over 100 countries worldwide celebrated Safer Internet Day to promote, and as the name suggests safer Internet and more responsible use of online technology and mobile/cellular phones, especially among children and youth. Consistent with this year’s theme for Safer Internet Day, “Play your part for a better Internet!”, here are four things you incorporate into your routine to be safer online.

1. Regularly perform a security audit

When last did you do a security audit of your accounts and devices? It you cannot remember, now might be a good time to do so. The exercise can be a detailed as you wish, but at the very least, it should comprise the following:

  • Checking the passwords for all of your accounts. All too often we end up using the same passwords over and over again, especially when we are in a pinch and need an easily remembered password. If the same password has been used several times, it may be wise to change it. Further, if your passwords are weak, such as being short and easily deduced words, again, it is strongly recommended that they be changed.
  • Checking the security settings on your devices, and applications. Your computing devices, such as your smartphone, laptop and table computers, along with web browsers and software applications, all tend to permit users to configure their security setting to safeguard their devices and their personal information. Further many online and mobile software apps can demand to highly personal information that, on reflection, can appear intrusive. The audit exercise provides an opportunity for all of those permissions to be revisited, and adjusted, as you see fit.

Note for all Google Drive users:  To commemorate Safer Internet Day 2016, Google is offering 2 GB of extra Google Drive storage, which can be used across Google Drive, Gmail, and Photos, if users complete their Security Checkup by 11 February 2016 (Source: Google).

2. Implement two-factor authentication when offered

Over the past several months, most major online platforms, such as Amazon, PayPal, Facebook, Twitter and Google, have implemented a two-factor authentication (2FA) process, thereby requiring users to validate access to their accounts in two steps. Typically the first step is by providing a username and password. However, in order to make an account more secure, another set of credentials are necessary to confirm the account owner, such as

  • a second password, or PIN
  • a special access code or key fob
  • biometric data.

Frequently, when users are prompted to implement the 2FA, it might not be a convenient time, and it is skipped. However, it is unwise to skip it indefinitely, as it can make your account more secure.

3. Delete browser, temporary Internet files and cookies

From time to time, it is good to wipe the browsing slate clean, which can be achieved by clearing your web browser history, and deleting temporary Internet files and cookies. Deleting the browser history and temporary Internet files can improve your devices’ performance, and fore your device to retrieve the latest web pages instead of accessing what it has already stored.

Regarding cookies, most of us have love-hate relationship with them. They can store your login details and past history on a site, but can also be used to track your movements online and encroach on your privacy.

4. More carefully guide and oversee children’s online activities

As Internet access and use becomes even more ubiquitous worldwide, there has been a growing recognition and concern about the safety of children online. In a news report in Jamaica last week , the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse expressed concerned and has observed an increase in the “use of social media to entice children into situations where they are sexually abused” (Source: The Gleaner). Hence online safety among children is not a problem that obtains only in developed countries; every country ought to take it seriously, especially those in the Caribbean, where we somehow believe we are under the radar , and tend to be less vigilant.


Image credit:  Safer Internet Day (Ireland website