Across Google, we build products with strong security protections at their core to continuously and automatically detect and protect you and your data from a wide range of threats. This Safer Internet Day, we also want to empower you with simple tips for a more secure online experience. Here are my three tips for all users.
Secure your phone
If you’re an Android user, the safest place to download apps is from the Google Play Store. Built into devices with Google Play, Google Play Protect shields your phone 24/7. It scans over 50 billion apps every day, identifying potentially harmful apps and keeping them off your device or removing them.
While Google Play Protect is the ideal security blanket for your mobile device, there are steps you too can take to help ensure your device is safe. Keep your screen locked with a unique password (pattern/pin). And if you add your Google account on your device, you’ll be able to find if it’s lost or stolen. Simply visit android.com/find to locate, ring, lock and erase your Android devices — phones, tablets and even watches.
Secure your data
We know that keeping your information safe and private is important to you, which is why we’ve baked security and privacy features into all our products. For example, we notify you when you’ve granted access to third-party sites or apps, but it’s really important for you to understand the information that you share with these apps or sites.
A quick check on your phone tells you exactly what access — including calendar, camera, contacts, location and microphone — you have shared with third-party apps. So while you sip your morning coffee, spend a minute to skim through app permissions on your phone, and choose the right settings for you.
Secure your account
Just like in the physical world where you go for a regular health check-up, did you know you could do a health check-up of your Google Account? The Security Checkup, gives you personalised and actionable security recommendations that help you strengthen the security of your Google account. Taking the Security Checkup doesn’t just help you stay safer while using Google services, it also includes helpful tips to keep you safer across the web, such as by reminding you to add a screen lock to your mobile phone, reviewing third-party access to your Google account data, and showing you what sites and apps you may have signed into using your Google account.
Unique passwords for your accounts
Using the same password to log in to multiple accounts increases your security risk. It’s like using the same key to lock your home, car and office — if someone gains access to one, all of them could be compromised. Create a unique password for each account to eliminate this risk and keep your accounts more secure. Along with creating unique passwords, make sure that each password is hard to guess and better yet, at least eight characters long. Consider using a password manager, like the one built into your Chrome browser, to help you create, safeguard and keep track of all the passwords for your online accounts.
Consider 2-step verification
Go one step further to secure your accounts by setting up 2-step verification, which can help keep the bad guys out, even if they have your password. It requires something you know (your password) and something you have (your phone) to be able to sign into your account. Setting up the process will significantly decrease the chance of someone gaining unauthorised access to your account. Once you set up 2-step verification for an account, remember to be ready for the second verification step each time you sign in.
You can either choose to have SMS codes sent to your phone, or you can download the authenticator app which can generate verification codes even if your device has no phone or data connectivity.
Keep your software up to date
To help protect your online activity, always run the latest version of software across web browsers, operating systems and applications on all your devices. Some services, including the Chrome browser, will automatically update themselves. Other services may notify you when it’s time to update.
Check site encryption
Pay close attention when asked to sign in online. Check to see if the web address begins with https://, which signals that your connection to the website is encrypted and more resistant to snooping or tampering.
Don’t fall for fake
Phishing is typically done through email, ads, or by sites that look similar to sites you already use. Don’t reply to suspicious emails, instant messages, or pop-up windows that ask for personal information, like passwords, bank account or credit card numbers, or even your birthday. Even if the message comes from a site you trust, like your bank, never click on the link or send a reply message. It is better to go directly to their website or app to log in to your account. Remember, legitimate sites and services will not send messages requesting that you send passwords, OTP or financial information over email.
Talk to children about online safety
Just like we teach our kids how to drive before handing our kids the keys to the car, it’s helpful to teach younger kids the basics of online safety and citizenship before handing them a device. A great way to get started is to review the ‘Be Internet Awesome’ parent’s guide together. You can teach them about being kind online, how to make strong passwords, what is appropriate to share online with whom, how to spot online scams, and when it’s time to consult a trusted adult. They can also reinforce all of these topics by playing the Interland game online.
Once they’ve earned their driver’s license for the web, it’s also helpful to lay down some digital ground rules as they begin to explore. If your kids have an Android or Chromebook device, you can use the Family Link app to do things like manage their Google account settings, approve or block the apps and websites they can use, and set screen time limits. You can learn more at google.com/familylink.
Sunita Mohanty, Director Trust & Safety, Google India.