Cybersecurity for Non-Techies: Simple Tips to Protect Yourself Online

Updated on January 29

In today’s digital age, we rely on the internet for almost everything. From staying connected with loved ones to managing our finances, the internet has become an essential part of our lives. However, with this increased reliance comes an increased risk of cyberattacks. Hackers are constantly developing new ways to steal our personal information, our money, and even our identities.

But don’t worry, you don’t need to be a tech expert to protect yourself online. Even simple steps can make a big difference in keeping your information safe. Here are 12 easy-to-follow tips to help you stay secure online:

1. Use Strong Passwords and Don’t Reuse Them

Your password is like the key to your online castle. If it’s weak, it’s easy for hackers to break in. So, how do you create a strong password?

  • Make it long and complex: Aim for at least 12 characters and use a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using common words or phrases, your birthdate, or any other personal information that someone could easily guess.
  • Don’t reuse passwords: It’s tempting to use the same password for all your online accounts, but this is a big security risk. If one account gets hacked, all your other accounts are at risk. Use a unique password for each and every account.
  • Consider a password manager: A password manager can help you create and store strong, unique passwords for all your accounts. This can be a great way to improve your online security.

2. Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

2FA adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts. Even if someone knows your password, they won’t be able to log in without also having your phone or another device to enter a verification code.

  • Enable 2FA on all your accounts that offer it: This includes your email, social media, banking, and any other accounts that contain sensitive information.
  • Use a strong authentication method: There are different types of 2FA, such as SMS codes, authenticator apps, and security keys. Choose a method that is convenient and secure for you.

3. Be Wary of Phishing Attacks

Phishing emails and text messages are designed to trick you into clicking on a malicious link or opening an attachment that can infect your device with malware or steal your information.

  • Don’t click on links or open attachments from unknown senders: Even if the email or text message looks like it’s from a legitimate source, be cautious. If you’re unsure, hover over the link to see where it really leads before clicking on it.
  • Be suspicious of urgent or emotional language: Phishing emails often try to create a sense of urgency or fear to get you to act quickly without thinking. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Verify the sender’s identity: If you receive an email or text message from someone you know, but something seems off, contact them directly through another channel to verify that they sent it.

4. Keep Your Software Up to Date

Software updates often include security patches that fix vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. Keeping your software up to date is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself online.

  • Enable automatic updates: Most software allows you to enable automatic updates, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting to update it manually.
  • Update your operating system, web browser, and other software regularly: Check for updates weekly or monthly, and install them as soon as possible.

5. Be Careful What You Share Online

Once you share something online, it’s almost impossible to completely delete it. Be careful about what personal information you share on social media, public forums, and other online platforms.

  • Think before you post: Ask yourself if you would be comfortable sharing this information with everyone you know, including potential employers, landlords, or even future family members.
  • Be mindful of your privacy settings: Most social media platforms allow you to control who can see your posts and information. Review your privacy settings regularly and adjust them as needed.
  • Beware of oversharing: Avoid sharing your home address, phone number, birthdate, or other sensitive information online.

6. Use a Secure Wi-Fi Connection (Continued)

  • Avoid accessing sensitive information: Don’t check your bank account, online banking, or other sensitive accounts while connected to public Wi-Fi. If you absolutely need to access sensitive information, use a VPN (virtual private network) to encrypt your traffic.
  • Connect to a trusted network: If possible, connect to a Wi-Fi network that you know is secure, such as your home network or a network at a trusted business.
  • Use a VPN for extra security: A VPN encrypts your data and routes it through a secure server, making it much harder for hackers to intercept your information. This is especially important when using public Wi-Fi.

7. Be Cautious of Social Engineering Attacks

Social engineering attacks rely on human psychology to trick you into giving up personal information or clicking on malicious links. Here are some common social engineering tactics:

  • Phishing emails and text messages (as discussed earlier):
  • Imposter scams: Someone pretends to be from a legitimate organization, such as your bank or the government, and tries to get you to provide personal information or financial details.
  • Baiting: Hackers tempt you with something you want, such as a free gift or a discount, to get you to click on a malicious link or download malware.

8. Install Security Software

Installing antivirus and anti-malware software on your devices can help to protect you from malware and other online threats.

9. Back Up Your Data Regularly

In case of a cyberattack or a device failure, it’s important to have a backup of your important data. This way, you won’t lose your files, photos, or other important information.

10. Be Aware of Public Computers

Public computers, such as those in libraries or internet cafes, can be vulnerable to malware and keyloggers. Avoid using them for sensitive activities, such as online banking or shopping. If you must use a public computer, be sure to log out of all your accounts and clear the browser history when you’re finished.

11. Keep Your Social Media Accounts Secure

Use strong passwords for your social media accounts, and be careful about what information you share. Avoid posting personal information that could be used for identity theft, such as your home address or birthdate.

12. Stay Informed About Cybersecurity Threats

Educate yourself about the latest cybersecurity threats and how to protect yourself. There are many resources available online, such as websites and blogs, that can provide you with valuable information.