Top tips for protecting yourself when accessing the internet when using your phone. Phishing, virus protection and more.

With the rise of online dating sites, online shopping portals, and even online classrooms, we now live most of our lives on the Internet. That's great, but there is a downside too.

Despite the convenience of being able to conduct our everyday lives from a computer, smartphone, or tablet, such activities can also leave us vulnerable to all kinds of malicious online activity - including phishing scams.

Phishing is one of the most common methods used by cyber criminals to commit online fraud. There are many types of phishing scams out there, but they all have one main objective - to obtain an individual’s sensitive data, such as credit card details, social security numbers, account information, usernames, passwords, and more.

Cyber criminals accomplish this by posing as a trustworthy entity and sending some type of electronic communication (emails, social media chat messages, or text messages) to their intended victims.

Once a phisher has obtained your information, they can pose as you and engage in various fraudulent transactions that can put your identity, finances, and reputation at risk.
Protect yourself against phishing by following the tips below:

1 Use strong passwords

With the many email and social media accounts you have, it can be hard to remember all of the logins and passwords. Using easy-to-remember passwords can seem like a convenient idea, but doing so can make your accounts easier to hack into. Therefore, always use strong passwords that contain a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols, with a good mix of upper and lower case letters.

If you have trouble remembering your passwords, list them down with pen and paper. Never store your passwords in an electronic document that can be accessed through your phone or computer, as this will leave your accounts vulnerable in the event that your device gets hacked or stolen.

2 Be diligent in using an anti-virus software

It’s easy to overlook this aspect of using one’s device, but it is crucial that you run an antivirus software on your desktop and phone to make sure that no virus or malware will be able to penetrate your device and compromise the sensitive information stored within.

3 Block malicious emails and pop-ups

If you’re always online, then you know that it’s not uncommon to encounter suspicious-looking emails in your inbox or annoying pop-ups while browsing random websites. To ensure your safety, do not click any of the links, and make sure to enable your browser’s pop-up blocking feature and mark all suspicious emails as “Spam” to teach your mailbox to spot or recognize suspicious emails.

It’s also advisable to refuse social media invitations from people you don’t know. These are likely to be fake accounts designed to steal the information in your social media accounts.

4 Set up the remote wipe feature of your smartphone

Certain smartphones now come with a remote wipe feature, which allows you to remotely delete all the data in your phone. This is a useful feature in the event that your phone gets lost or stolen, as you would not have to worry about compromising the sensitive information or files stored in your phone.

If your phone does not come with this feature, there are third party apps that also offer such capabilities.

5 Shop at secure sites

One of the most common tactics employed by phishers is to create copies of legitimate websites that require people to input their personal information and credit card details—such as online shopping websites. Learn to discern a legitimate website from an illegitimate one, and always check if it is secure. Of course there are also sites that, while legitimate, are not secure enough to keep your information safe from hackers and malware. Remember that secure websites will always have a padlock symbol on the address bar, as well as a URL that begins with HTTPS (instead of HTTP).

With most online shopping websites, you may be asked to save credit card details for future use. Do not do so, as this will make it easier for hackers to get your credit card information from said site and use it for malicious activities.

6 Customize your phone’s DNS settings

Most Internet users use their mobile phones to surf the Internet. However, certain mobile operating systems like Android make use of Google’s public DNS servers, which means that Google gets to record some of your personal information, including search history and phone usage habits. And in the event of a data breach, your sensitive data can end up falling into the wrong hands.

To avoid this, install your own DNS service on your Android phone. This way, you can be assured that your sensitive information remains private as you go about your day-to-day browsing activities.

Some DNS services out there are also faster than Google’s, so you get to enjoy both speed and privacy when you install your own.

7 Be wary of public WiFi

Free WiFi connections are convenient, especially during times when we don’t want to (or can’t) use cellular data. But before you connect, read the terms and conditions carefully. And better yet, use a paid VPN (Virtual Private Network) service whenever you use public WiFi for an added layer of protection.

Also, if you must use free WiFi, make sure to stick to online activities that won’t require you to use your credit card or type in login details and other sensitive information.

8 And lastly, lock your phone and tablet

The simple act of locking your phone and tablet is your first defense against identity thieves in case your phone gets lost or stolen. The harder it is to guess your pin, the more difficult it would be for hackers to access the important files and information stored in your phone. This will afford you more time to report the incident of your lost or stolen phone and have your service provider do the necessary measures to prevent your phone from being hacked into.

Observing the safety precautions mentioned above may seem like a lot of hard work. However, always remember that it is much harder to recover in the event that your information gets stolen and someone uses your identity or your personal details to commit fraudulent crimes.
As they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Author bio: Alex Gomez is a social media professional who dabbles as a freelance tech writer and photographer. This gadget and car enthusiast also plays video games and keeps himself updated on technology news in his spare time.