Tuesday 9 February marks the day the world celebrates safety on the net, or Safer Internet Day if you like. But usually, when the day comes around, the cybersecurity situation as it so happens usually hasn’t changed much from the year before. So it never feels like much of a reason for celebration. That, however, is not the case in 2021, thanks to the lifestyle changes that the pandemic coronavirus brought around the world.
For most people, the internet was a godsend over the last year. It enabled work continuation, studying, shopping, socialising and even entertainment during the lockdown and social distancing times.
Junior schoolers just like university students around the globe are now following classes and submitting their homework online on a daily basis. In some countries, schools and universities are operating almost entirely online, with all “attendance” being virtual.
Online shopping has been hugely impacted over the last year – the US division of Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, saw a 79 per cent gain in online revenue in the third quarter of 2020, while in
Kenya, online shoppers rose to 79 per cent in 2020.
This change in shopping behaviour has had a major impact on retailers as well as consumers with 15 per cent of UK companies creating roles specifically to cater for the increased digital sales and boost online capacity as of Sept 2020.
Just as we’ve all been stuck at home, so have the cybercriminals
But over that last year, the internet crooks have regularly exploited the health-related fears and anxieties of all of us – as home users, employees, and employers – to lure people into their criminal traps. The Sophos 2021 Threat Report details how the threat landscape changed in 2020.
With all this in mind, take advantage of Safer Internet Day 2021 to check your online security practices and make sure you, your family, and your friends are as safe as possible.
If you own a website, make sure it’s secure
For many small businesses in countries with strict lockdown measures, online sales are the only way to keep trade alive at all, due to “click-and-collect” regulations. As a result, many small businesses have enabled online purchasing for the first time over the last year, with web developers reporting a rush to implement online payment mechanisms in the first months of the pandemic.
Here are tips on how to;
If your business has a website, even if it’s only a modest one, go back and review the security of the site and any payment collection services you work with or connect to.
If you can afford it, get a third-party to do the review so you get an independent opinion of what has been set up well, which parts could be improved, and which parts, if any, need urgent attention. (You can be sure that the crooks are regularly “testing” your server, even if you’re not.)
If you are running a website via HTTP only, perhaps because the information you’re providing is public.
If you don’t manage your own website, speak to your hosting service – any reputable provider will be happy to answer your questions, and won’t get in the way of an independent security assessment.
If you shop online, take care before you share your card data
Additional tips (6) for online safety were published by Sophos over Thanksgiving weekend 2020 for the peak of the 2020 retail season known as Black Friday. These tips apply all year round and are easy to do.
From applying a credit freeze to using extra steps of authentication, it explains how to protect oneself from risk when shopping online, whether out of choice or necessity.
Educate your friends and family
Lots of occasional web users have become heavy consumers almost overnight. Many people who previously just used the internet to read the news or check emails are now using it in multiple ways every day, including meet-ups, chats with groups of people not well known to them, if any at all.
Talk with your friends and family about good online security practices. Advise them on how to spot scams no matter how they arrive. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of people being at home to make *predatory phone calls*; are abusing home deliveries to send scams via SMS, and are taking advantage of people trying to download health advice or set up vaccine appointments.
Secure the devices you use to access the internet
Sophos offers tips for homeschooling that are useful even for those who don’t have children. They explain how to stay safe especially now that most home networks have basically become small business networks in their own right. Also, their home Wi-Fi tips are helpful for locking down personal networks from the outside snooping or surveillance.
Do not wait until after something bad has happened to figure out how to protect against it!