11 Internet Safety Tips to Protect Yourself Online

Brianne Sandorf
Aug 08, 2023
Icon Time To Read5 min read

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Everyone wants to stay safe online, from e-commerce sites to social media. The question is: How?

We’ve rounded up 11 internet safety tips to protect you from scams, viruses, malware, identity theft, and other unpleasant e-issues.

Speaking of the internet, the first step to internet safety is having a reliable home internet connection (we’re not fans of public Wi-Fi around here). If you need better internet or think your connection could be more consistent, see what internet service providers are available near you.

Enter your zip code below to find secure internet providers in your area.

1. Don’t fall prey to clickbait or phishing scams

If you receive an email (or Facebook message or Twitter DM) promising you a million dollars or a free cruise through the Bahamas, know that it’s always too good to be true. If you respond, all you get is embroiled in a money-sucking scam (and scammers may pass your email on to their colleagues in the biz).

Likewise, if you get some weird email from a stranger with a link (or even an odd email from an apparent coworker or friend with a link), do not click that link! It’s probably a direct gateway to a nasty virus or spy software.

If your email host allows you to mark these offers as spam or phishing, do! Similar emails will be more likely to go straight to the trash bin in the future.

2. Don’t share personal info online

Be wise about what you share online, especially on social media.

Can you buy something online with your credit card? Sure, if you follow our shopping safety tips (see below). What about posting a photo of your new card and its cool design? We don’t recommend it.

Show off your sweet new apartment on Insta, but never snap an Instagram live of your new house key. Key copying tech gets better all the time, so this isn't a good idea.

Do you share your kid’s middle name in their birth post? That’s fine. Announce their birth date? Maybe not—it’s likely okay to do one or the other, but both together create a situation that’s ripe for identity theft.

Speaking of stolen IDs, it never hurts to invest in some identity theft protection. But you do have to buy it before your sensitive information gets nabbed. Otherwise, it doesn’t do much.

Happily, if your personal data gets nabbed in a data breach from a vendor or website you trust, you might receive gratis services to straighten everything out—but you also might not.

3. Be wary of what you download

Only download attachments and files from people and websites you trust! You’d be surprised at what bad actors can hide in innocent-looking files.

Be especially suspicious of anything free. Cybercriminals love installing malware in free downloads.

4. Invest in a reliable VPN

Public Wi-Fi is convenient, but it’s not always safe (especially when it’s not protected by a password). Sometimes you have to use it, though, and for when you do, we suggest investing in a VPN.

Using a virtual private network (VPN) is one of the best ways to protect your online activity when using those public Wi-Fi networks.

VPNs work by routing your internet connection through a private server rather than coming directly from your computer. Since the VPN encrypts your data, your identity stays anonymous, so hackers can’t steal your personal information as easily.

Best VPN services for privacy
VPN provider
Logs policy
PureVPNStarts at $10.95/mo.Zero logs for incoming or outgoing traffic
SurfsharkStarts at $12.95/mo.Strict no-logging policy
NordVPNStarts at $12.99/mo.Zero logging policy approved by auditors
ExpressVPNStarts at $12.95/mo.Logs minimal information, such as server location

Data effective 07/25/2023. Offers subject to change.

For a deeper comparison, check out our Best VPN Services for Privacy breakdown.

5. Update your software

This one is less obvious than others: Keep your devices’ software up to date.

Sometimes hackers poke around, looking for software vulnerabilities, and the best way to combat that is to download the vendor’s latest security updates. These contain patches and fixes that offer the most current protection.

6. Use an antivirus program

Antivirus software is one of your best lines of defense against malware, spyware, and other viruses.

If your device comes with an antivirus program, keep it updated—and make sure it does regular sweeps. And if you want something beyond the basics, you can download  additional antivirus software for extra protection.

Our friends over at SafeWise have some top antivirus software recommendations for you.

7. Choose strong passwords

It's wise to choose strong and complex passwords to protect your online accounts.

You also want to use different passwords for different accounts.

If you suffer from password fatigue and can’t think of a single new password, we suggest using a password generator to create them. Many web browsers and phones now offer a built-in generator to help.

However, these complex passwords are hard to remember, especially when they’re a string of random numbers and letters. You may need a password manager that remembers them for you.

However again. Using a password manager is, in some ways, the modern equivalent of writing all your passwords on a sticky note in plain sight. You want to protect the manager with a strong password (make sure this one is one you can remember).

And also, you want to use two- or multi-factor authentication  with the password manager’s password—and while you’re at it, go ahead and add multi-factor authentication to a bunch of your other accounts, too. The extra protection will bring your accounts one step closer to Fort Knox-level cybersecurity.

And speaking of passwords, make sure you set one up on your home Wi-Fi. Otherwise, your home internet can quickly become public internet.

8. Practice safe shopping habits

When shopping online, remember to pay attention to website domains. If the website starts with “https,” it’s more secure than sites beginning with “http.” Remember to look closely at the website domain before you purchase those majorly discounted pool filters.

Also, pay close attention to signs of sketchiness, like terrible, nonsensical grammar or no existing reviews for the vendor. Those could be signs of legit sites run by other countries, but they’re also helpful in determining whether the site is a scam. In fact, we suggest just straight-up googling “website name scam” to see if anything turns up.

And as a last saving grace, never buy anything online with a debit card. If someone has your credit card info, you can dispute charges. If someone nabs your debit card, they can wipe out your entire checking account, which is much harder to fix.

9. Protect your mobile devices

Remember VPNs? You can (and should) use them on phones and tablets, too. Consider using a VPN that allows you to connect multiple devices on one subscription.

We also recommend adding facial recognition and verification to potentially valuable apps like Venmo, banking apps, Amazon—anything that might include your credit card number, bank info, or other sensitive information. That way, if you hand your phone to someone so they can make a call or take a photo of you, everything’s locked down tight.

10. Back up your data

In case something does happen to your devices, it’s smart to back up all your important data, including your homework assignments and those photos from your awesome vacay. That way, you can redownload everything to a new device as needed.

11. Turn off your Bluetooth

Bluetooth works by using radio waves to make the connection between devices wireless. Like any wireless connection, it’s disruptible by hackers. Having your Bluetooth on makes your data more vulnerable by exposing your device through the connection. When in public, do yourself a favor; check your settings and turn Bluetooth to Off.

Additional contributor: Chyelle Dvorak

Brianne Sandorf
Written by
Brianne Sandorf
Brianne has a degree in English and creative writing from Westminster College and has spent 6+ years writing professional, research-based content. Before joining Reviews.org, she wrote safety and security content for ASecureLife.com. Her pieces and quotes are published across the web, including on MSN.com, Social Catfish, and Parents.com. Hobbies include wearing a seatbelt, wearing a life jacket, and keeping her arms and legs inside the ride at all times. Contact her at brianne@reviews.org.

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