Your guide to keeping yourself safe on the internet

Senior couple happily playing with an iPad

The internet and online ‘life’ has become the norm and many of the things you were used to doing in person are now much more convenient to do online. Whether you’re ordering your weekly groceries, or applying for a Home Care Package, online purchases and activities are now commonplace. Coronavirus has accelerated this and the need for isolation and the safety of home has made online activities vital.

If you are over 65, navigating the online world may not be second nature like it is for younger generations. It may feel like a foreign place and one that you’re not sure how to navigate safely.

Is the internet safe?

You may have heard stories about stolen credit card numbers and bank accounts being emptied, or even entire identities being copied and used. Scary stuff, right?

Luckily, it’s pretty uncommon for these things to happen, and even less common if you take some simple security measures before you delve into the online landscape.

Here are our top recommendations for keeping yourself safe online.

1. Use common sense when browsing

Just like you would when out exploring or shopping, use your common sense and don’t visit any website that look a little bit dodgy!

If you’re on a website and something pops up offering you a free gift, for example, it’s probably wise not to click on it – generally these are ways to trick you into clicking and downloading a virus, or to get your personal information.

https vs http

You might have noticed that some website addresses have an ‘s’ added to the http at the beginning. Websites with the added ‘s’ have a security certificate, meaning they are safer to browse than ones with just http.

Often, your internet browser will warn you if you land on a website that does not have the security certificate and give you the option to go ahead or to go back.

Stick to secure WIFI networks

Public WIFI networks, such as your local cafe, library or McDonalds, are not secure and have a lot of people accessing the same network. As such, it is possible that your activity online can be ‘seen’. If you are using public WIFI, do not do any online shopping, banking, or anything else where you are sharing any of your personal or financial information – wait until you can connect to a secure, private WIFI network.

2. Keep your personal information safe

This is another common sense approach – you wouldn’t give your personal information out to strangers, so don’t do it online either. Keep your home address, your phone number, your date of birth, and of course any financial or security information hidden from public view.

You can adjust your Privacy Settings on many browsers and on platforms like Facebook. This will reduce the amount of information these platforms (and other marketers) can receive about you.

Often, these companies will by default have fairly loose privacy settings, as they want to gather as much data and information about their customers as possible. This also means that the Privacy and Security settings can be a little hard to find. If you’re struggling to find them on whatever platform you are using, try using Google Search to help you find the answer.

3. Choose unique and strong passwords

For ease, many people use the same password for every account they have. This can be a huge risk and it is recommended that passwords are unique to each account and feature at least 15 characters with a mix of upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers and symbols.

Remembering passwords like this is near impossible! You can either keep a diary and write them all down, or, we recommend using a program such as LastPass, which will securely store all of your passwords and pre-fill them for you when you are logging in.

4. Use PayPal or other secure online payment vendors

To make online purchases, you obviously have to give out some sort of payment information. There are a few safe options available to you:

PayPal

PayPal is a secure payment platform with built in security measures. You simply link a credit card or bank account to a PayPal account and PayPal encrypts your payment information when you’re purchasing anything using your PayPal account.

One great feature of PayPal is that you can dispute any payment you make using PayPal. So, if you do happen to order something from a website that isn’t trustworthy, you can let PayPal know and they will investigate and refund your money.

Low amount credit card

If you don’t feel comfortable using PayPal, or if the online stores you are purchasing from don’t offer PayPal as a payment method, you could consider getting a credit card that you use for online shopping only. This credit card should not be linked to any of your other accounts and should have a low limit. That way, if your credit card information is stolen, there is only a small amount that can be used by the perpetrator.

Buy from secure sites only

If you are buying things online, never make any purchases from sites that do not have the ‘s’ in their https. As mentioned above, these websites are not secure and your payment information is more vulnerable.

5. Consider getting a VPN

A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. Each internet connection comes with something called an IP address. This IP address shows your location – not your exact location, but it may show that you are in Elsternwick, Victoria.

Your internet usage can also be tracked, so certain organisations may be able to see all of the things you have been looking at on the internet.

If you would like to keep that information hidden, a VPN is the best option for you. A VPN enables you to have a secure connection between your device and an Internet server that no one can monitor or access the data that you’re exchanging

6. Antivirus software

Purchasing antivirus software can prevent you from downloading any nasty malware or viruses from the internet. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are constantly creating new viruses and programs, so it’s important that you are constantly updating your antivirus software to ensure that it is equipped to deal with the most recent

Antivirus software is certainly not a guarantee that you are protected, and nasty programs can still sneak through so it is important that you care very careful about what you download.

7. Be wary of people you meet online

In our current era of isolation, connecting with people online is important. However, if you are widening your socialising outside family and friends and looking to meet new people, be very careful.

You can’t be sure of who you are actually talking to and there are many people online who fake their identity and pretend to be someone they are not. It’s best to be overly cautious and never give out any personal information.

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