By Amy Stephenson

We all know it’s important to wash our hands, but how do we stay safe online? Cybersecurity is a growing global concern with real implications for everyone. Like everything, a healthy bit of caution is all you need. Common sense is important to stay safe online. One of the first of many cyber safety tips is: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Phishing emails: Messages that ask for your banking information, personal data, or to log in to sensitive accounts are aimed at stealing your identity. Know that the CRA or your bank will never ask for account information online. If you’re wondering about an email, call the sender to confirm the request. 

Strong passwords: Strong means not a name, phone number or postal code. These are all easily identifiable. If you have the same password for every account, the consequences of a hack can become monumental. Aim to have a strong, unique password for each account to minimize the risk of a hack.

Social media: Content posted online is public and potentially available to be used by others. Posting details of your life online makes it easier for hackers to learn key details leaving you more susceptible to identity theft. 

Allow updates: It’s important to keep your devices up to date. Updates can be annoying but don’t click “remind me later.” Software is constantly changing in attempts to stay one step ahead of hackers. Using old programs increases your susceptibility. It can also prevent newer, more efficient programs from running.

Sketchy websites: Look for the lock symbol on the website or “https://” at the beginning of the website address (the “s” means “secure”) to be sure the site is encrypted. Sites that end in .org are often more credible than .ca or .com. Lower-quality pages may have moving graphics and formatting that makes it difficult to navigate and more likely to confuse users into sending in personal information or clicking into something.

Public networks: Avoid online banking, checking e-health records, and entering personal information when on a public WIFI network. Simply put, if you wouldn’t want to talk about it in line at the coffee shop, don’t do it on their WIFI network.

Screen emails and hyperlinks: When checking emails or looking to click on anything, take a moment. If you hold your mouse over the link, the end destination will appear in the bottom left corner of your screen. This allows you to ensure the link is taking you to a site that you actually want to go to.

Change is coming: 5G! Zero-latency and hyper-connectivity is not just a dream. This increased density of sensors means there is a mind-boggling amount of data being created. Understanding who has access to that data and what they plan to do with it matters. Stay informed by reading the consent waivers on your devices, programs and services.

This is not to intimidate anyone out of using online resources. The internet is a wonderful resource that can be a great tool to do so many things! But there is a need for caution when navigating the online world.