Staying Safe Online

The Internet offers so many opportunities to explore, create and collaborate. And to make the most of the web, it’s important to keep yourself safe and secure. Whether you’re a new Internet user or an expert, the advice and tools here can help you navigate the web safely and securely.

Secure your passwords. Passwords are the first line of defense against cyber criminals. It’s crucial to pick strong passwords that are different for each of your important accounts and it is good practice to update your passwords regularly. Follow these tips to create strong passwords and keep them secure.

Image: You can add an extra layer of security to your Google Account by enabling 2-step verification

Tip 1: Use a unique password for each of your important accounts like email and online banking

Tip 2: Use a long password made up of numbers, letters and symbols

Tip 3: Set up your password recovery options and keep them up-to-date

Use secure networks. It’s good to be extra careful whenever you go online using a network you don’t know or trust – like using the free Wi-Fi at your local cafe.

Keep your device clean. If you’re getting redirected from Google or seeing pop-up ads, unwanted toolbars, or strange Google search results, your computer may have malware. Malware is software designed to damage and take control of your computer.

Here are some tips to keep your system clean.

Tip 1: Keep your browser and operating system up to date. Most operating systems will let you know you when it’s time to upgrade – don’t ignore these messages. Old versions of software can sometimes have security problems that criminals can use to easily get to your data.

Tip 2: Keep an eye on what you click and download. Without meaning to, you may click a link that installs malware on your computer. To keep your computer safe, only click links and downloads from sites that you trust. Don’t open any unknown file types, or download programs from pop-ups that appear in your browser.

Prevent Cybercrime. The web can be a great place, but not everyone online has good intentions.

Here are three simple ways to avoid scammers and stay safe on the web:

Tip 1: Beware of strangers bearing gifts. A message is probably up to no good if it congratulates you for being a website’s millionth visitor, offers a tablet computer or other prize in exchange for completing a survey or promotes quick and easy ways to make money or get a job (“get rich quick working from your home in just two hours a day!”).

If you see a message from someone you know that doesn’t seem like them, their account may have been compromised by a cyber criminal who is trying to get money or information from you – so be careful how you respond. Common tactics include asking you to urgently send them money, claiming to be stranded in another country or saying that their phone has been stolen so that they cannot be called. The message may also tell you to click on a link to see a picture, article or video, which actually leads you to a site that might steal your information – so think before you click!

Tip 2: Do your research. When shopping online, research the seller and be wary of suspiciously low prices just like you would if you were buying something at a local store. Scrutinize online deals that seem too good to be true. No one wants to get tricked into buying fake goods. People who promise normally non-discounted expensive products or services for free or at 90% off likely have malicious intent. If you use Gmail, you may see a warning across the top of your screen if you’re looking at an email our system says might be a scam – if you see this warning, think twice before responding to that email.

Tip 3: Don’t get phished. Phishing is when you get an email or a social media message that looks like it’s coming from a legitimate place such as a bank or social networking site. If you click on a link in the message, you’re taken to a website that looks legitimate but could be run by criminals trying to trick you to sign in with your username and password so they can capture that information. Your best bet is not to click on the link but rather type the web address (such as into your browser window and go to the site that way.

Tip 4: When in doubt, play it safe. Do you just have a bad feeling about an ad or an offer? Trust your gut! Only click on ads or buy products from sites that are safe, reviewed, and trusted.

Google is looking out for you. In a bid to ensure a safe online experience, Google takes a number of steps to keep you from harm’s way.

1: Encryption. Google takes many steps to keep your personal information safe from attackers and snoops. By default, we encrypt the Gmail connection between your computer and Google – this helps protects your Google activity from being snooped on by others. We also make this protection, known as session-wide SSL encryption, the default when you’re signed into Google Drive and many other services.

2: Suspicious account activity warnings. We’ve alerted a number of users when it looked like something unusual was going on with their Google Account – for example, logins appearing to come from one country and occurring shortly after a login from another country. These users were shown a warning message in their Gmail inbox about this unusual access. We also occasionally make users change their passwords if we have reason to believe their account has been compromised.

3: Helping you avoid malware. Just as Google searches the web for sites with the best answers to your questions, we also look for sites that appear to be harmful to users or have malware on them. Every day we identify and flag more than 10,000 of those unsafe sites, and we show warnings on as many as 14 million Google search results and 300,000 downloads, telling our users that there might be something suspicious going on behind a particular website or link.

4: To help fight abuse and keep spam out of your inbox, Gmail uses email authentication to determine if a message actually originated from the address from which it appears to be sent. All active Gmail users – and the people in contact with them – automatically receive protection against threats to their personal and financial information.

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