A few weeks ago, at the Cavendish Tech Cafe, Jarrod Harper, of VELCO, did an incredible presentation on Internet safety. No matter how tech savvy you are, there is always something new to learn. While we can’t exactly duplicate his presentation-and yes, we should have probably used Facebook Live – he did share his summary slide.

Cavendish Connects and the Cavendish Library plan to offer another Tech Cafe on a Saturday in November, when we hope Jarrod will once again share the latest on this topic. In the mean time, here are some of the “take homes” from his talks with links where you can learn more.

Living in a “wired” society is a double-edged sword. Many things are a lot easier because of it, and we’ve become very dependent on it.  We text, call, book appointments, bank, share files, pay bills, surf the web for the best deals and the list goes on. At the same time these various devices-computers, tablets and phones-are vulnerable to security threats.

Don’t despair. Some very practical steps will help minimize your exposure

1. Check sites for SSL Certification (Secure Sockets Layer): Does it start with “http://” or “https://”? If you notice an s at the end, that means your connection is encrypted and secure, so any data you enter is safely sent to the website. Not all sites have SSL certification. While they may be fine to browse, avoid sharing any financial or personal information on websites without this added layer of security.

2. Passwords

• Create unique passwords: Make your password a sentence: A strong password is a sentence that is at least 12 characters long. Focus on positive sentences or phrases that you like to think about and are easy to remember. On many sites, you can even use spaces. Read How to Create a Strong Password (and Remember it)

• Do Not use the same password for multiple accounts. Why You Should Use a Password Manager and How to Get Started.

• Use biometric features, such as fingerprint authenticators. This makes unauthorized access nearly impossible.

3. Change the default password of your internet router and IOT devices. Make it harder for hackers or even snoopy neighbors. Most router manufacturers configure their new routers with the same default username and password. The default usernames and passwords for popular models of wireless network gear are well known to hackers and often posted on the internet. Why You Should Change the Default Password on a Wi-Fi Router.

4. Connect to the Right Wi-Fi: Many free Wi-Fi points are not encrypted. These open networks allow malicious people to eavesdrop on the network traffic and easily get your passwords, usernames and other sensitive information. To protect against Wi-Fi hacking, use applications that secure your connection or at least tell you the status of the Wi-Fi to which you are connected. WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) is more secure compared to WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy). Consider investing in a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN is a piece of software that creates a secure connection over the internet, so you can safely connect from anywhere.

5. Click Smart: Don’t invite danger with careless clicking. Many of today’s online threats are based on phishing or social engineering. This is when you are tricked into revealing personal or sensitive information for fraudulent purposes. Spam emails, phony “free” offers, click bait, online quizzes, texts from people you don’t know, and more all use these tactics to entice you to click on dangerous links or give up your personal information. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid links asking for personal information and Do Not Click on Website Ads! 10 Ways to Avoid Phishing Scams

6. Be a Safe Shopper

• Remember to follow Step 1 and only use sites whose address starts with “https.”

• Don’t Save Financial Information on Shopping Sites: Even sites with SSL certification can be hacked. Many shopping sites let you save your credit card information in your online account. This setup makes it easier to make purchases in the future and it also makes it easier for hackers to access your information. Spend the extra minute to enter your information each time you make a purchase.

7. Know your “friends:” Whether it’s on Facebook, other social media sites or texts via your mobile device, if you don’t know the person sending you a text, e-mail or a friend request, don’t respond. Use your spam filter.

8. There’s an App for That: Only download apps from official app stores after reading other users’ reviews first.

9. Stay current and be alert: Keep all your software updated so you have the latest security patches. Online threats are evolving all the time, so make sure you know what to look out for. Make sure that your security software is enabled on your mobile, just like your computers and other devices.

10. Careful What You Post : There are no “take backs” with what you post, or even what’s posted about you. Don’t put anything on line you wouldn’t want your current or prospective employer, parents, spouse or best friends to see.