Staying safe on the internet
Why do I have to be careful on the internet?
- Some internet users may have bad intentions, such as:
- exploiting (taking advantage of) others
- invading others’ privacy
- fraud (tricking others in order to receive money)
- viewing or photographing others’ bodies for sexual exploitation
All of the above are crimes.
If we are not careful, we can potentially
- lose our privacy
- become victims of identity thefts
- lose money
- have our private photos sent to pornography sites
- have unwanted sexual interactions and potentially unwanted pregnancies
- get in trouble with the law
- feel really hurt
- affect our family and friends
- It is necessary to protect ourselves so we don’t become victims of crimes
How do I stay safe on the internet?
Here is a list of recommendations to help you and your family be more informed internet users and stay safe.
- Use strong passwords (a mixture of letters and numbers, upper and lower case). Don't tell your password to anyone else (except your parents or caregivers).
- Set Facebook or other social network accounts to the “privacy” setting so that only friends you really know can view your profile.
- Sit down with someone with lots of experience to go over what is and isn’t ok to do on the internet.
- Never give or send personal information online (don’t give out your name, address, your phone number, the name of your school or where you work).
- Never give out your Social Insurance Number, credit card numbers, PINs, or banking information.
- Never send personal naked or other inappropriate photographs of yourself to anyone.
- Don’t use chat rooms; it may be possible to block these with safety features provided by your Internet Service Provider or filtering software such as “K9 Web Protection”.
- Filtering programs and software are available to restrict personal information from being sent online.
- Research what “screening” tools are available. Often your Internet Service Provider has a (parental) control option which will block certain material that the Internet Service Provider deems unfit based on a “bad site” list.
- Always use a “screen name” (not your real name) when interacting online.
- Keep the computer in a common area such as the living room or kitchen.
- If you plan to meet with someone you met online, ask for your parents' (or caregiver's) permission, tell someone you trust, and take someone with you. Always meet in a public place such as a coffee shop.
- Tell your parents (or caregivers) if something does not feel right. For example, if someone wants to meet with you alone, asks to see a naked photo of you, asks for money, or asks questions that make you feel uncomfortable.
Some of the safety features mentioned above are available on parental control systems such as Norton Family.
What should I do with unsolicited emails?
An unsolicited email is an email that you did not ask for.
Here are 5 tips to keep in mind whenever you receive an unsolicited email: (Adapted from information provided by UHN Digital)
Do not click on links or open attachments from senders that you do not know.
Check links carefully to make sure they are what they claim to be. Move your mouse to hover over a link, without clicking on it. The actual link address (URL) will be displayed, so you can see if it is the same as what is printed in the email.
Ask yourself: Is the email asking you to do something urgently? Don't do what they say in a hurry.
Do not provide sensitive personal information, like usernames and passwords, to other people.
Watch for emails from people that use suspicious or misleading domain names. Some scammers use "spoofing" They use email addresses that look like those from a real person or company, but they are not. Be sure to double check.
If you get a spam email, delete it.
12 Cyber Savvy tips to keep you safe
A special holiday reminder provided by UHN Digital
Watch out for suspicious emails or messages
More email scammers tend to appear during the holidays, luring shoppers with fake special deals and tricking them into revealing personal information. Don’t open an email from a person you don’t know or a site you haven’t visited before.
Be suspicious of emails that seem to come from people you know asking you to do something unexpected
Phishing campaigns often pretend to be coming from a trusted friend or colleague and rely on you not checking the actual email address of the sender. In some cases, the cyber-attacker uses the internet to research their intended victim and people their victim interacts with, like your manager, CEO or co-worker. The cyber attacker then crafts an email pretending to be one of these people and sends it to you. When in doubt, check with your friend or colleague via alternate methods.
Look out for messages designed to make you panic
A message may claim that your account has been compromised and the only way to verify it is to enter your login details. Alternatively, an email might state that your account will be closed if you do not act immediately. Ensure that you take the time to really think about whether an email is asking something reasonable of you. If you’re unsure, contact the company through other methods.
Look out for website and email addresses that do not look legitimate It is often the case that a phishing email will come from an address that appears to be genuine, with the aim of trying to trick recipients by including the name of a legitimate company within the structure of email or website addresses. If you only glance at these details they can look very real, but if you closely examine the address you may find that it’s a bogus variation intended to appear authentic ‒ for example: @mail.amazon.work as opposed to @amazon.ca
Pay attention when looking at links and URLs
Hovering over links in webpages and emails, as well as taking that extra time to look at the browser address bar and see what website you’re really at can save you from falling for a phishing attack.
Look out for fake purchase invoices, shipping status messages and email deals
Attackers take advantage of this by sending fake purchase receipts or shipping status messages, sometimes purportedly from reputable companies like Apple, Walmart and Amazon etc. Victims could find themselves installing malware or landing on a phishing page by clicking these links or by downloading attachments.
Update your personal computer’s protection software
You should install operating system, application patches and anti-virus applications on your personal devices as soon as they are available. Cyber security threats are constantly developing and installing the latest software updates can protect you from any new attacks.
Don’t use public Wi-Fi to shop online
Public networks are not secured and likely will not encrypt your data. A hacker connected to the same network could capture your identity – whether you’re connected through your computer or phone. Although you may want to shop quickly to take advantage of a deal, you should wait until you are home or connected with a protected Internet connection.
Only shop on secure sites
Before providing any online vendor with your information, check if the page URL has “https” at the beginning of the site address. All legitimate shopping sites will have this for your protection. If you don’t see the full five letters, that means the site and any data you share will not be encrypted or secure.
Steer clear of phony shopping and discount apps
Only download shopping apps from reliable sources, such as the Apple Store or Google Play. Check the name of the developer, read the online reviews and pay attention to what permissions the app asks for. If something seems off and the app is asking for access to your all contacts, it may be a phony.
Keep an eye on your bank accounts.
Make sure the purchases shown there were actually made by you. If you notice any suspicious or unidentified transactions report it to your financial institution.
Most importantly, trust your gut
You probably wouldn’t shop at a store you don’t recognize or simply doesn’t seem legitimate. That same gut feeling should apply when shopping online. If anything seems strange or you feel you are giving out too much information, cancel the transaction or immediately leave the site. Your personal and financial information is not worth the risk.
Resources on internet safety
Our Clinic's Transition factsheet - Internet safety
Social Smarts: Privacy, the Internet and You: a 12-page graphic novel created by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to help Canadians to better understand and deal with privacy issues in the online world