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In an era where the digital landscape has become an integral part of our lives, the virtual world offers boundless opportunities for connection, growth, and exploration. From meeting potential partners on dating sites to pursuing career opportunities on job vacancy platforms, and even simply surfing the web for information and entertainment, the internet is teeming with possibilities.

However, amidst the vast expanse of the internet lies a digital wild west, where your safety can sometimes hang in the balance. Online usage can expose you to real-life risks, from financial to life-threatening potential risks.

So as we embrace the conveniences and pleasures of interactive platforms, it is crucial to acknowledge the paramount importance of online safety. Just as we exercise caution when navigating unfamiliar terrain in the physical world, the digital realm requires us to be vigilant, informed, and proactive in protecting ourselves from potential threat of using our devices and the internet. 

Protecting Your Gadgets Online

Today, our gadgets are more than just tools; they're our lifelines to the online world and sometimes carry around our whole careers! Whether it's your smartphone, tablet, or laptop, keeping your devices safe online is crucial. The idea that using free apps is making us users can not be far from the truth but it is time to take back control. Let’s get to know some of the best online practices and gadget safety  tips to help you safeguard your gadgets and safely surf the web:

Lock It Up

Just like you lock your front door, secure your gadgets and apps with strong passwords or PINs. Use a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols for added protection. I know, I know your gadget has touch and fingerprint sensors but fortify it with passwords or patterns. Your work and personal apps need protection too, get a two-step verification and when prompted to update, do so. 

Update, Update, Update

Regularly update your device's software and apps. These updates often include security patches to keep hackers at bay. It fixes security bugs, enhances performance making the app faster and reliable performing at an optimum level. Think of it like a monthly health check-up but for your phone’s health.

Beware of Phishermen

Phishing is a fraudulent practice of sending emails or other messages purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. Be cautious of suspicious emails and messages asking for personal information. Always verify the sender's identity before sharing any details. Rule of thumb never share your passwords or any identity information, e.g ID numbers or passport numbers.

Install Antivirus Software

Updating protects the app from internal risks while anti-virus protects everything on your phone from external risks. Protect your gadgets with reputable antivirus software. It's like having a shield against malware and viruses from downloaded apps, insecure links, random plug-ins and more.

Public Wi-Fi Woes

Avoid using public Wi-Fi for sensitive tasks. If you must connect to the internet, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your data. Think of a VPN as a secure passage to documents (web pages) on the internet.

Backup Your Data

Your gadget is not only at risk of hackers and phishermen but also at risk of losing information. Gadgets and individual apps provide a backup option to keep your account information safe. Regularly back up your important files and photos to the cloud or an external storage device like an SD card or a hard drive. This ensures you will retain precious memories if your gadget is protected.

App Permissions

As important as privacy controls and policies are app permissions are what determine how far these policies apply to you. Review and limit app permissions to only what's necessary. Some apps request access to more than they need. For example, your Uber app location doesn’t need to be on all the time and can be switched on and off when necessary similar to social media platforms location permissions don’t need to be open even when using the app. Interestingly your bank app can access your camera but does it need to? Also, do you really need that resume app subscription next month, cancel it. Remember at the end of the day information is power and you are in control and not the other way around.

Now, that we have our gadgets safe and have an idea or two on cyber safety let’s move on to safety measures for meeting online people offline. How do you handle these meet-ups that begin online?

Protecting Yourself Online 

So you just got an email notification that your job application went through and you are shortlisted for further interviews or your Cupid crush texted they want a dinner date. How do you verify its authenticity and keep potential risks to a minimum in the treacherous wilderness of the internet?

  • Meet in Public: 

For that first meet-up, whether it’s business or pleasure, the rule of thumb is to choose a public place. 

  • Go Solo: 

If you can, arrange your own transportation. This gives you an exit plan if you ever feel uncomfortable during the meeting. I mean best friends can also have good exit plans too, try one!

  • Share Your Plans: 

Always share your plans or location with a trusted friend or family member. Let them know who you're meeting, where, and when you expect to be back. Arrange a check-in time if you need to.

  • Verify Identities: 

Before meeting someone face-to-face, try to confirm their identity. Ask for a video call or additional photos. Look them up on social media to make sure they're real. Catfishing is real! So do a bit of online research about the person you're chatting with. Google their name, check their social media profiles, and watch out for any red flags or inconsistencies.

  • Guard Your Personal Info: 

Keep your personal information like your address, phone number, and financial details under wraps, especially with new online acquaintances. Be careful about sharing too much too soon.

  • Be Wary of Money Requests: 

Avoid sending money or sharing financial info with people you meet online. Scammers often target people this way.

  • Tweak Your Privacy Settings: 

Adjust your privacy settings on social media and other online platforms to control what information is visible to the public or the person you are meeting. Do you want your account private or public? Do you want to restrict certain messages or comments? Remember, you are in charge of your controls.

  • Trust Your Gut: 

Your intuition is your secret weapon. If something doesn't feel right or seems too good to be true, don't ignore that feeling. It's there for a reason.

  • Use Secure Messaging: 

Choose messaging apps or platforms with strong security features, like end-to-end encryption, to keep your conversations private.

  • Stay Sober: 

Keep your wits about you by avoiding excessive drinking or substance use when meeting new people. Clear judgment is your best friend.

  • Get Educated: 

Learn about common online scams and tricks used by scammers. Knowing what to look out for can help you steer clear of potential dangers.

  • Report Suspicious Behavior: 

Did someone drop a hateful comment or did your app wrongly charge you? If you come across someone suspicious or harmful, report them to the platform or app administrators, and don't hesitate to block them.

  • Trust is Earned: 

Remember that trust should be earned over time. Be cautious of anyone rushing you into making decisions or forming deep connections too quickly.

  • Check Reviews and References: If you're considering a job opportunity or making a purchase from an online salesperson, check for reviews, ratings, and references to gauge legitimacy before adding to the cart.

Following these simple steps lets you enjoy your gadgets and apps without worrying about online threats. Stay safe online is all about being proactive and mindful of your digital surroundings. So go ahead, surf the web, play games, and stream content, knowing that your gadgets are well-protected, and your interactions online are an absolute minimum. Remember, staying safe online is about being proactive and using your instincts to make informed decisions.

In addition, find resources to peruse through for more information.

Resources for Online Safety (Individuals, Businesses, Teachers & Parents):

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