Online Mental Hygiene, Part 1: How To Stay Safe Online And Why Is It Important For Your Professional Development?

March 28th 2022

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SUMMARY / KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • According to a report by Fortunly, 33% of Americans experienced identity theft, and identity theft incidents cost the citizens of the US $56 billion in 2020 alone.

  • In this article, we will show you how to browse safer with many tips including VPNs, incognito mode, password management, and other methods to keep your data safe online.

  • We also give a number of golden rules for “mental hygiene” online: a mindset that will make you resilient against online crooks and criminals.

How To Stay Safe Online And Why Is It Important For Your Professional Development?

Have you ever talked to a friend about something, like books, for example, only to see an advertisement about books minutes later while browsing the web?

Unfortunately, many invasions of privacy are committed by big tech companies in these modern days in the search of profit and power. As a result, many people are tricked into being consumers and having their opinions unethically influenced.

Your safety online affects your professional development. Without properly protecting your data, you can be almost certain that sooner or later, you will get a message with a request to pay the hackers for not revealing your personal, sensitive information, including private pictures found on your email account or hacked through other media.

That’s why today, it is important to protect your data more than ever. According to the report just published by Fortunly (Andjelic, February 17th, 2022), 33% of Americans experienced identity theft and identity theft incidents cost the citizens of the US $56 billion in 2020 alone.

Hackers keep getting more and more sophisticated. It’s important to protect against hackers looking to commit nefariousness by selling your credit information or gaining access to your identity through email and social media.

So, with no signs of technology slowing down, it’s a good idea to take steps to protect your data and have healthier online experiences, free of unwanted influences.

Therefore in this article, we will show you how to browse safer with many tips including VPNs, incognito mode, password management, and others to help keep your data safe in today’s modern and invariably dangerous internet.

How To Browse Using Proxy and VPN?

Let’s start with Proxy. Just as explained in a report just published by Fortunly, server is an application that acts as an intermediary between a client requesting a resource and the server providing that resource.

Proxies were originally devised to add structure and encapsulation to distributed systems, but can also be used with the sole purpose of increasing the user’s level of privacy online. One popular example of a Proxy is Hidester.

And what is a VPN? VPN stands for “virtual private network.” At their core, VPNs are something that re-routes all of the data you are sending, out to its server before the data reaches the public internet. Therefore, the data that the public internet sees is not connected to you but the VPN service, anonymizing all of your data through a virtual private network.

While VPNs are complicated systems, there exist many companies that sell the use of their VPN to the public and make it very simple to use. Services like ExpressVPN or NordVPN typically have a simple one-click connect button to activate the service.

Meaning that once the setup of choosing and buying a VPN service is done, all you have to do is click start and you are set to surf the web just like you normally would! Of course, the main difference now is that you have excellent security against all sorts of attacks and prying eyes.

So, what is a better choice – Proxy or VPN? Both Proxy and VPN hide your IP address, but only a VPN redirects your internet data through an encrypted tunnel. A Proxy is suitable for browsing the Internet, but in general, VPN is one level safer.

What Is The Difference Between a Protected (or, Secured) and an Unprotected (or, Unsecured) Network, and Why To Avoid The Latter?

The unprotected network means that there is no special login or screening process to get connected to the network. We use to connect to such networks for convenience in public places, for example, in restaurants, at airports, and on the train.

However, usually, all you need to do to connect to such a network is to accept the terms – which means you and anyone else who is in proximity to the router, can use it. The information transferred via such a network is generally not encrypted, hence your data also is not.

There are many ways in which hackers can break into an unsecured network, for example, via a so-called Man-in-the-Middle-Attack, creating fake Wifi connections, or Session Hijacking. So, if a skilled hacker were nearby to attempt to break into the unsecured network you are connected to, it is very little that can stop them.

How to prevent stealing your data via open Wifi in public places? First, using the aforementioned VPN helps, because it lets you log into the network via the IP of another device in another country. In this way, the content of your personal device will stay unavailable to the hackers. 

You should also remember to always close your open sessions at an unsecured network before leaving, otherwise, a hacker might hijack and continue to use your session. 

You can also save yourself from the necessity to log into the public network by creating a hotspot from your secured network, for example, from your phone connected to the secured network from your mobile internet provider. for example

What Are Phishing Scams?

Phishing scams can vary between each one but generally, you can think for example,  about a fake email that looks very real and official from Facebook that says you have a security issue. Please sign in to address the issue, and links you to an equally real and official-looking Facebook login page.

The big difference is that what you type in the username and password text fields gets recorded. And now you are a victim of a phishing scam as a result of phishers tricking you. To learn more about how to recognize and avoid phishing scams check out this government website that educates on it.

What Does “Incognito Mode” Mean?

The next useful means of safety is the incognito mode. This mode is offered in nearly all Internet browsers including Chrome, Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Edge, Opera, and more. Some browsers may call it something else. For example, Safari calls incognito “private browsing mode.”

Incognito is a great tool that helps with quite a few things. First and foremost, it eliminates logs of your online traffic. Your browsing history will not be recorded in this mode making it impossible for hackers to see the history of what you’ve been up to.

Secondly, the lack of logs actually clears up space in your computer helping it stay less congested. This second point is not critical in online safety but is just a nice added bonus for your device’s health and for comfort in your professional life.

How to Protect Your Email and Identity Data.

In the past, the Twitter accounts of all the major tech-industry moguls, such as Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos were all hacked.

Someone who wasn’t them signed into their accounts pretended to be them, and asked their followers to send money to an account for their money to be doubled and sent back! A pretty good deal…

Of course, it was a scam. For the outsiders, it was a funny incident, but it does highlight the need for certain security practices when navigating online.

The first thing we need to discuss is password maintenance. Don’t be that person who uses the same low-security password for every login they have. If you’re only concerned about online protection then you may want to consider a logbook of passwords physically written.

Many people will advise you against that, but ultimately your circumstances are your own and you are capable of making that choice. There are a few golden rules for healthy and safe password management:

1. Don’t Use the Same Password Twice.

This is just common sense. If one of your passwords is hacked, you don’t want all of them to be hacked.

2. Don’t Choose a Password That Could Be Easily Guessed or Cracked.

This tip might sound like preaching, but you wouldn’t believe how many people don’t stick to this basic rule. Simple words like “blue,” “cat,” “hello,” and especially the word “password,” should not be involved in any of your passwords.

Some people like to think of a sentence that encodes the chosen password. For example, “My mother made the best sandwiches when I was a kid in the 90s” might be translated into “Mmmtbswiwak90.”

As a rule of thumb, this is a good strategy, but of course, you need to keep your sentence simple enough to remember.

3. Change Your Passwords Often.

With enough computational power at hand, all hackers need to crack your password is time. If you change your passwords from time to time, they will never be able to catch up.

4. Don’t Share Your Passwords.

With ANYONE. Just that.

5. The More Complex Password the Better.

As mentioned in rule 2, complexity is better, but don’t make them so complex you cannot remember them.

6. Don’t Use Any Personal Information To Create Your Password.

Information such as birthday dates (and dates in general!) or pet names are easy to crack. This is in the same vein as rule 2 – but so many people use personal information that it needs to be its own rule.

7. Change Default Password After Setting a New Online Account.

When you first sign up for a new account, sometimes they will assign you a default password. The systems used to generate default passwords are not always safe and sometimes the default passwords can be easier to hack than a user-created password, so it is a good habit to change them to a personalized password ASAP.

8. Use 2-Factor Authentication.

Probably the strongest layer of security keeping your email and identity safe is two-factor authentication. This is when a website asks you for a backup email or phone number to use when it needs to verify your identity, typically through an automatically generated code.

Whenever possible, set up two-factor authentication as it’s way harder for a hacker to get into two accounts or devices than just one.

Of course, while setting two-factor authentication on your phone, you also need to write down the backup 2FA code. Otherwise, in case you break or lose your phone, you will no longer be able to retrieve your access from another device.

9. Password Managers and 0Auth.

Of course, many the question is: if I follow rule number 1 and never repeat my passwords, and then rule number 5, namely, choose gobbledygooks only, then how am I supposed to remember all my passwords?

Well, there is a nice way around this, namely password managers. You can, in example, use Google Oath. This is a fully encrypted tool integrated with Google Chrome browser and Gmail.

Google Oath works in the following way. Once you log into your Gmail account, you automatically get access to all pages protected by passwords pegged to this Gmail account using Google Oath. You can just click the “Sign in with Google” button (0auth) and you successfully any of these passwords. 

You can put your trust in a password manager, but then you are risking your information being leaked if that password manager (Google in this case) gets hacked. Ultimately, two-factor authentication is currently the highest level of security, but these password managers and 0auth sign-ins make keeping track of passwords a much easier job.

Be Realistic.

Way too many intelligent, highly educated people working on professional development still fall for popular online scams and voluntarily share their data with scammers.

For example, scammers telling them about a fortune inherited after an ancestor who happened to be a king of a tribe in Tanzania, or about an ongoing investigation where they are suspects in crime and need to give all their personal details to police, including the bank account data, to clear themselves up.

Every time you receive an overly positive or overly negative message, ask yourself: what is the probability that this piece of information is legit? Do I really have an uncle who happens to be king of Wakanda? Did I do anything illegal that I don’t even remember?

Choose an Antivirus.

Some operating systems catch viruses less often than others (e.g., Mac OX operating system is known as relatively virus-resistant). However, getting a good antivirus program is also a great tool for staying safe online. 

It used to be antivirus software only protected from viruses, but now there are great defenses for everything, built-in and updated regularly on many good services like Norton, Kaspersky, AVG, and others.

Stay Undoxxed If You Have a Choice.

Today, more and more professionals get engaged in online communities via Discord, Telegram, and other online media. As long as it is a professional network such as LinkedIn, it makes perfect sense to present yourself by name.

However, when it comes to communities such as online NFT groups (please also check out our article “What Are Non-Fungible Tokens and What Do They Tell Us About The Today’s Job Market?” to learn more), it is better to stay anonymous (also referred to as “undocked”) for as long as you can.

Once you reveal your identity, you prompt hackers to think that you might have millions’ worth of ETH and NFTs on your Metamask and try to rob you by phishing you or so.

Conclusion: How To Stay Safe Online As a Professional Today?

These rules are some good guidelines but they are not set in stone. There may be new technologies in the future that require new rules or adapting to the current ones.

Use common sense and do what works best for you in your professional life and for your professional development. It will always be a trade-off between safety and convenience, and you’ve got to find the sweet spot for yourself.

Now you have all the information you need to stay safe online as a professional. It may seem like a lot, but it’s really just a bit of a setup that in the future, might save your career advancement.

And don’t get scared by rumors that quantum computers will soon empower hackers to hack into any network they want — this is a song of the distant future! You can get safe and sound online today, without anyone’s help.

To summarize how do it in three simple steps, (1) get and activate the VPN, (2) use good password management, and (3) use two-factor authentication. Once all these are set up, it’s very simple to use the Internet at your workplace without any reason to worry about security. So, stay safe out there with your career development strategies!

To find more information on how to not only stay safe online but also stay objective, please take a look at our next article “Online Mental Hygiene, Part 2: How To Stay Objective Online?

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Please cite as:

Wright, D., Bielczyk, N. (2022, March, 28th). Online Mental Hygiene, Part 1: How To Stay Safe Online And Why Is It Important For Your Professional Development? Retrieved from https://ontologyofvalue.com/online-mental-hygiene-vol-1-how-to-stay-safe-online/

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