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Play Your Part For A Better And Safer Internet

As the world observes Safer Internet Day today, what should India's online population do to create better internet experiences

It is no understatement when we say that India is at the peak of its internet revolution. According to a recent report by industry body IAMAI, the number of internet users in India is expected to reach 462 million by June this year as more people come online, especially through mobile devices. The country has witnessed a manifold growth in online population over the last few years. For instance- while it took only a year for the number of internet users to move from 300 million to 400 million, it took three years for the numbers to increase from 100 million to 200 million users. Compare this to more than a decade that it took to get the first 100 million users online... In such a scenario, it can be overwhelming for a single organization or system to balance the safety and opportunity offered by the internet. As a result, a major chunk of the responsibility is up to the users themselves.

February 9 marks Safer Internet Day, an annual event to promote safe and responsible use of online technology and mobile phones. With this year's theme being 'Play your part for a Better Internet', let's use this opportunity to remind ourselves of our role in creating a better internet environment for us and our loved ones through safe, responsible and positive use the internet.

Don't Allow the Internet To Be A Weak Link

According to the Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report 2015, 48 percent of India's online population was affected by online crime in the past year. 60 percent of Indians worry about experiencing cybercrime and 54 percent of Indians believe it's more likely their credit card information will be stolen online than from their wallet. These fears are grounded in reality with and one in two (52 percent) Indians admitting that they have either personally experienced credit card fraud or know someone who has.

This places a huge precedence on the users to be aware of the potential threats that they can be exposed to, while accessing the internet. Despite the concern and awareness towards cybercrime, and only one in three Indians feeling complete control of their online security, consumers are overconfident of their online security behaviors. When asked to grade their security practices, they consistently award themselves a solid "A". In reality however, most are not passing the most basic requirement of online security: password use.

People are sharing passwords to online sensitive accounts with friends and family. Of those sharing passwords, more than one in three share the password to their banking account, and on an average they are sharing passwords for two accounts, with the most common passwords shared being email (60 percent), and social media (54 percent). This behavior could be especially risky if users re-use the same password for multiple platforms, thus compromising their safety. Likewise, not too many people know that having their email or social media account compromised can lead to further attacks on their friends and loved ones. Cybercriminals use stolen email or social media accounts from one victim to spear-phish - in other words, lure their next victim. After all, we are more likely to click something posted by a friend.

It is also surprising that several users are unaware that their smart devices and wearables can be held hostage! These devices hold plenty of personal information which could lead to new opportunities for ransomware attacks. For instance, cybercriminals can hold a victim's file, photos and other digital media hostage and demand ransom using crypto ransomware. Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated and are adopting newer techniques and methods to compromise not only consumers but companies as well.

As more and more Indians get online, the responsibility is on each and every one of us to increase awareness among loved ones, children as well as new users, such as senior members of the society.

How You Can Play Your Part for a Better and Safer Internet

Be cautious on social media: Don't click links in unsolicited email or social media messages, particularly from unknown sources. Scammers know people are more likely to click on links from their friends, so they compromise accounts to send malicious links to the account owner's contacts.

Know what you're sharing: When installing a network-connected device, such as a home router or thermostat, or downloading a new app, review the permissions to see what data you're giving up. Disable remote access when not needed.

Use strong passwords: This cannot be emphasised enough. Use strong and unique passwords for your accounts and devices, and update them on a regular basis-ideally every three months. Never use the same password for multiple accounts.

Familiarize yourself with the proper office procedures: Question any emails requesting actions that seem unusual or aren't following normal procedures. In fact, don't reply to emails that seem suspicious. Obtain the sender's address from the corporate address book and ask them about the message.

Install security software and keep it updated: Don't put off installing security software such as Norton Security Premium and updating it regularly.

Always back up data: Use a secure backup solution to protect files and backup regularly so criminals can't hold them for ransom.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Ritesh Chopra

The author is Country Manager - India, Norton by Symantec

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