Hey guys! Since June is Internet Safety month, today I’m partnering with my friends at Allstate to share a few super important tips to staying safe while you use the interwebs. I don’t know about you, but the amount of time I spend online is crazy, and honestly, I don’t stop to reflect on how much data I’m sharing as often as I should.
Am I being smart about how much I’m sharing online?
Am I making it way too easy for them creepers to find me?
How about identity theft? Am I an easy target? Ugh. I hope not.
Sure, the internet is a miraculous thing because God knows I wouldn’t have made it this far as an adult without a ton of help from Google, but it can also be a little dangerous if you’re not being safe about how you use it.
But before we get into the tips, I want to ask you guys – how much do you know about your digital footprint? Do you even know what that is? Long story short, your digital footprint is the trail of information you leave behind anytime you click on a website or share a post on social media. Heck – even if you just LIKE something on social media, that’s part of your footprint. Everything is recorded one way or another – even if you delete your browsing history, btw.
Allstate actually has a super quick quiz you can take to help you figure out the size of your digital footprint, so if you’re curious, you can take it right here. I took it myself and I wasn’t surprised. I’ve got a heavy digital footprint, but thankfully, I’m cautious about it. I do try to use the internet as safely as possible, but there’s definitely room for improvement.
Now before you get all crazy and paranoid and start thinking that everyone’s out to get you and you might as well just throw your phone and computer away, relax. There’s no need to go that extreme, you just have to be mindful of certain things. So let’s get into those things, shall we? Here are seven easy tips for staying safe online that you can put into practice right away.
1. Be careful about how much personal info you share
As a blogger and YouTuber, I struggle every day with balancing how much information I want to share online. It’s tough, I know. But it’s something we all need to think about – regardless of whether or not you’re a blogger. I mean, think about how many people you’ve Google stalked before. Come on, I’m not the only one who’s done it. You’re able to find photos, social media accounts, favorite books, old tweets from five years ago, their entire dating history, and sometimes even things like their address or place of work. Now really think about that. That can be a little scary if the wrong person is searching for you.
If you’re curious about the kind of information that’s out there about you, just type your name in Google and see what comes up. I make it a habit to search my name at least once a month. Not because I’m obsessed with myself, but because I like to make sure there isn’t info out there that I don’t want to be shared. I remember one time I was shocked when I found a photo of the front of my house associated with my name because that’s definitely NOT something I want the whole world to know. So just be thoughtful about what you choose to share, and that alone will go a long way in keeping you safe online.
2. Check your photos carefully before posting
In this world that we live in where we’re constantly operating at five thousand miles a minute, it’s easy to miss tiny important details. We have something exciting we want to share online so we snap a photo, edit it using a million filters, spend time thinking of a clever caption and then post it right away so we can count how many likes we get. That’s just how things work – myself included. But before you post a photo, you should take a really hard look at it and make sure you’re not sharing personal information that you don’t want others to see.
A big one for me is my address. When I’m filming vlogs and taking photos around the house, I usually have a ton of mail packages thrown around everywhere. Well you know what? Those packages tend to have a label on them with my address, and if I’m not super careful, it’d be really easy to include that info in my videos. Love ya guys, but I don’t need everyone knowing where I live. See what I mean? Another easy thing to miss is your credit card! You’re taking a photo at a restaurant of what you ate for lunch and in the background, you can see your check and your credit card! Greeeeaaaat. So let’s see….take an extra two seconds to look through your photos before you post, or spend hours canceling credit cards and reporting identity theft? I think I’ll go with the first option.
3. Use ridiculously long passwords
Hands down, one of my biggest pet peeves is forgetting my passwords. If I’m trying to login to an account and I keep getting that error message saying that my login information isn’t right, oh man do I just want to throw my computer across the room and give up on life. Ain’t nobody got time for that! So in the past, that prompted me to be super lazy about my passwords. I would basically use the same password for all of my accounts and that’s pretty much the worst thing you can do as far as passwords are concerned. These days I use a tool called 1Password and it’s a super encrypted password manager that creates really hard passwords and then stores the info.
If you don’t have a password manager, the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) recommends using an entire sentence for a password. For example, you’d think of a sentence like this: Today I went to the beach at 5pm. Your password would then be the first letter of each word: TIwttba5. Having your password be a part of a sentence makes it easier to remember while still being secure. Other password tips include:
- Avoid common words
- Use a combination of upper and lowercase letters
- Include numbers and special characters (!@#$)
- Make your passwords at least 10 characters long
4. Be careful whenever using public Wi-Fi
So you’re at Starbucks, huh? Doing some online shopping while you sip on your chai tea latte? Oh man, that actually sounds kind of nice. Anyway, when you’re connecting to public Wi-Fi, exercise a lot of caution, my friends, because while I’m not super techy, there are definitely ways that the people who ARE super techy – and BAD (techy and bad is not a good combo) – can see the data you send and receive. When I’m working outside of my office I do use public Wi-Fi, but as a rule of thumb, I never check my bank account or pay bills until I get home.
5. Lock your phone
I thought everyone locked their phones, but apparently, not so much. According to a study by the Federal Reserve board, nearly a third of US adults don’t password-protect their smartphone. I know it’s just SOOOO hard to type in four numbers every time you use your phone, but it’s the best way to protect against strangers accessing the data stored on it. Believe me, if someone really wants to steal your data, even if you leave your phone on the table for a minute, they’ll find a way to do it. So just do the safe thing and make sure your phone is password-protected. Makes things a whole lot harder for the bad guys.
6. Regularly update your software
Now this is something that I suck at, so as soon as I’m done writing this, I’ll be updating my phone. For some reason I hate updating my software, but it’s actually really important to complete these updates because they usually contain security patches to help keep you protected from new threats. So open up your phone and your computer and make sure that your devices are running the latest versions of their operating systems. If they’re not – put them down, start the updates, and go on a nice little walk outside until their done.
7. Turn off location settings
A lot of the apps we use these days have location settings built into them that record exactly where we are when we post. Some even show our location even when we’re NOT posting. For obvious reasons, you might not want people to know exactly where you are at any given moment, so whenever you can, turn off your location settings. Another tip (specifically for Snapchat and Instastories) – record your video footage and then upload later. I don’t typically post to my Instastories in real-time because I try to be cautious about letting other people know exactly where they can find me. Stranger danger is a real thing, ya know? You can learn more about location settings here.
So there you go! 7 tips for staying safe online! How many of these do you practice already? Which one is the hardest for you? PS – If you’re looking for more tips on internet safety, be sure to checkout the Allstate’s Hidden World of Data site because they have a TON of super helpful information!
This post was written as part of the Allstate Influencer Program and sponsored by Allstate. All opinions are mine. As the nation’s largest publicly held personal lines insurer, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most–but to guiding people to live the Good Life, every day.