Safer Internet Day 2018

Whilst it might feel like forever, the Internet is really only 35 years old this year. There was something before, but technically, it wasn’t really the Internet.

It was very different to today – in fact, the ability to create web pages only came about in 1989 when a gentleman called (Sir) Tim Berners-Lee created it. He then came up with a browser in 1990 and released it all to the general public in 1991.

Back then, there was no Google, there was no Facebook and there was no Twitter for US Presidents to use. Digital identity theft and hacking were virtually unknown concepts and there was certainly no YouTube littered with funny cat’s videos. Over time, as ideas for using the Internet developed, so too did risks and holes in security and the desire of some people to create havoc in different ways.

Today, we’re bombarded with lots of different messages about the dangers of the Internet. If you want to see something bad, do something bad or find people doing something bad – you can. But that doesn’t just apply to the Internet – that applies in all walks of life. You would always check who you give your bank details to, or your date of birth or other personal information and you would perhaps only provide that to what you’d consider reputable organisations. The same applies to the Internet.

So how can we support people to stay safe online?

To be safe, you should always trust who you’re dealing with in the virtual world and the real world to give yourself some reassurance that your information is being managed properly.

There are simple practical steps everyone can take, particularly when supporting people to stay safe online:

  1. Make sure people have a suitable password.
  2. Think about the information people are sharing with websites and others online – do they need that information and what do they do with it? If you’re unsure, ask the site why they need it and if you’re still not happy, consider going elsewhere.
  3. Make sure whatever device people are using is running the latest software version. Updates that are often sent out are normally to fix problems with how something works, but can just as easily fix a security risk.
  4. If someone is making a purchase online or sharing some personal information, always look out for the padlock on a page or reference to something called SSL. This is a way of securing data using encryption between you and the end point to stop people snooping. You’ll also see in the web address that it’s https://websitename.com and the S at the end of http means the same.
  5. Look at the privacy settings on social media sites – if someone is using social media, check that they know who they’re sharing their information with. A couple of commonly used privacy help sites are listed below.
    Facebook Privacy
    Twitter Privacy
    Instagram Privacy
    WhatsApp

There are lots of news stories about companies being hacked, personal data being lost and websites providing inappropriate material and sometimes it can feel like that’s all that happens out there. But the reality is different. There are some amazing sites and great ways to share interests and experiences with a global community and it can even be life changing for some. Taking a few simple steps to protect people will go a long way to enjoying what’s out there.

Eddie Vermeer, Head of IT