The internet is one of the most amazing inventions ever. We can use it to talk to friends, read the news, buy and sell stuff, watch videos, manage our money, and a million other things.
But with great power comes great responsibility! The internet can be dangerous, if you don’t know the rules of online safety. That’s because there are lots of ways for criminals and shady companies to get important information from people who browse the internet… And once they have it, they might use it in ways you can’t control. It’s even possible to steal from people, using nothing but the internet.
Luckily, there are lots of special skills we can use to protect ourselves! Those are the rules of online safety, and following them will keep you (and your information, and your money) safe while you take advantage of everything the internet has to offer.
Social Media Safety
Lots of people like using social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. But with so many people talking and sharing stuff (like links and personal info), it can be easy for a criminal to sneak in and take advantage. Luckily, there are steps we can take to protect ourselves. A few good tips are to avoid suspicious links, think twice before posting your personal information, never accept friend requests from people you don’t know, and take a good look at your privacy settings.
Check out this video to learn about social media safety.
Protect Your Name!
You may have heard that the internet is “anonymous,” and that everything you do there is secret. But that’s not true! There are lots of ways for stuff on the internet (like an embarrassing picture) to get attached to stuff in the real world (like the real name of the person in that picture).
Once information like your name or phone number gets onto the internet, it’s very hard to get rid of it. That’s why it’s important to be careful and think hard before posting anything online. If you wouldn’t share it with a stranger, then you shouldn’t share it online. Even if you think it won’t be connected to your real-world identity, you can never know for sure.
Phishing for Secrets
Have you ever heard of “phishing?” No, it’s not a relaxing activity that you do by the water: phishing is a kind of scam, and a method that criminals use to try and steal information. It happens every day, and can be done over the internet, phone, or text… That’s why it’s so important to know what phishing is, and how to protect yourself.
When criminals “go phishing,” they send you a message while pretending to be a company that you trust (often your bank or phone company). Then they ask for important information (like your password), or tell you to click on a link and log in to their website. The website may look like the one you usually log into, but it’s a fake! If you give that fake website your secret information, then the criminals will steal it. Then they can use that information to commit other crimes, like stealing your money.
This video explains how phishing works:
So how do you know if an email is fake? Check out these hints from phishing.org:
- Too Good To Be True – Crazy offers that try to attract your attention. For example, many phishing emails claim that you have won an iPhone, a lottery, or some other cool prize. Remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!
- Sense of Urgency – Phishing emails may ask you to act fast, or something bad will happen! Real companies give lots of time before doing stuff, and they never ask people to send their personal details over email. When in doubt, visit the source directly instead of clicking the link in the email.
- Hyperlinks – A link may not be all it appears to be. Putting your mouse over a link shows you the actual website that it leads to. It could look completely different than it should, or it could be the real website but spelled wrong (like “t3lus.com” instead of “telus.com”).
- Attachments – If you see an attachment in an email that you don’t recognize, don’t open it! Shady attachments can have viruses in them.
- Shady Sender – When an email says it comes from a big company, but has a suspicious email address (like spelling mistakes, or lots of numbers), it’s probably fake. Don’t open it!
What About Phones?
“Phone scams” work just like phishing emails. Sometimes you’ll get a call from an “automated” caller, who sounds like a robot. Other times, it will be a real person trying to trick you. Either way, phone scammers try to make you give them your personal information, like bank numbers and other financial details.
If someone on the phone is threatening or harassing you, it’s okay to hang up… Even if they CLAIM to be calling from the government! Real government callers won’t do that. They also won’t ask you to immediately send your money somewhere, especially through methods like e-transfer, bitcoin, or prepaid cards.
If you think someone may be lying about who what company they’re calling from, hang up and call that company back. Don’t ask the suspicious caller for their phone number: instead, look it up on the company’s official website, or ask a trusted person to help you find it.
A computer virus is a kind of program that makes your computer do bad things, like slowing down your computer or stealing your personal information. Luckily, viruses can’t hurt your computer unless they get inside of it first. Your computer is like a castle, and viruses are waiting for a chance to sneak inside. That’s why you have to be careful about when and how you open the castle’s drawbridge.
Here’s a quick video about computer viruses, which are also called “malware.” Watch it to learn more about how malware works:
The easiest time for a virus to sneak inside your computer is when you download files. Many viruses are attached to shady-looking spam emails, like the “phishing” ones we just learned about. There could be a virus hidden inside, and you don’t want to let it onto your computer.
Viruses can also get onto your computer when you’re browsing the internet. If you accidentally click an ad or download link, that can end up downloading a file that you don’t recognize. If that happens, make sure to delete it instead of opening it. Mysterious files are unsafe files!
What Makes a Good Password?
When you sign up to a website or online service, you usually need to create a password. That password is a secret code that will let you into your account: if someone else has it, then they can get all your stuff! That’s why it’s important to keep your password secret, especially from people online.
Here’s a video about password safety!
But what makes a good password? A good password is easy to remember but hard to guess. One good tip is to make your password long, like a whole sentence. For example, which one of these passwords do you think is better?
Horse or RidingMyHorseToTown
If you guessed the second one, you’re right! The more different letters there are in a password, the harder it is to guess. If you can’t make your password too long (some websites don’t allow long passwords), then you can also make it better by adding numbers or other special characters. For example:
But don’t go too crazy with all the special characters: you have to remember this password, after all! Try your best to make the password meaningful to you, so that it sticks in your memory.