Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Safer Internet Day

What is the connection between Safer Internet Day and Lunar New Year? This year, they both fall on the same day, 5 February 2019. This day is celebrated globally to raise awareness of emerging online issues.

The campaign slogan this year is “Together for a better internet”, a call to action for all stakeholders to join together and play their part in creating a better Internet for everyone, and especially for younger users.

Google Singapore shared with us their online safety guide in conjunction with this year’s Safer Internet Day. In light of increased online shopping, particularly around festive seasons, though it’s certainly something getting quite ubiquitous amongst everyone, Google has some stay safe online tips.

  1. Protect your online shopping accounts. I say you must protect all accounts, not just shopping accounts. Furthermore, don’t simply ignore accounts which you feel are unimportant. Make sure you use strong passwords, and unique passwords to each website or online service. You cannot do without a password manager nowadays. Read my post on password managers.
  2. Download secure apps. Make sure you download and use only known apps from trusted sources, such as from the Google Play Store. Just like you want to make sure you are visiting the official, legitimate, website of an online merchant, you must make sure that you are using the official app from the associated service provider.
  3. Beware of phishing when surfing online. Phishing cases continue to be a problem. The tricks that phishers employ are getting better and harder to spot, even for savvy users. Learn how to spot phishing attacks. Take Google’s online quiz to test your phishing-detection skills.
  4. Beware of offers that sound too good to be true. There is no free lunch. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it can’t be real. Do your due diligence, do checks, ask others.
  5. Use Google Pay for more secure payment. Ok this is definitely a plug for Google. There are some good reasons why Google Pay, as are alternatives like Apply Pay, provide additional security over your traditional credit cards. Here’s why:
    1. When you add a credit card to Google Pay, your bank creates a random sequence of numbers that corresponds to your card.
    2. This is called a ‘token’. It is stored, encrypted, on your phone.
    3. When you pay for stuff with Google Pay, the app uses this token instead of the credit card number itself.
    4. Even if a bad person is ever able to access the token, it will just appear as a random number string and will be useless to them.
    5. Additionally, critical transaction information associated with the token expires after a brief period of time.
    6. And even if you lose your phone, you can remotely lock or erase all information from your device using “Find My Device”.

On a related topic, you should use 2FA, or second factor authentication, whenever such a feature is available. Using 2FA ensures that the security of your account doesn’t get immediately compromised simply because your userid and password is lost. You should be familiar with 2FA at least in relation to accessing your Internet banking accounts.

There are numerous methods for second factor authentication. Popular standards include TOTP as defined in the IETF’s RFC 6238, used by many websites and online services, including Google and Facebook.

Another popular method uses Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) protocol, the basis of devices such as Yubico’s Yubikeys. U2F devices are convenient to use, yet provide extra security to protect your accounts.

As important as the Internet has become in numerous aspects of our everyday lives, we need to step up our guard to safeguard our Internet use.

Happy Safer Internet Day in advance.

(Of course, don’t go away thinking that’s all you need to know to stay safe online. It’s a first step.)

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