The internet is a beautiful place, full of art and lively debate and baby animals. But, just like the real world, it’s also full of potential dangers. And just like we all take precautions to be safe in our daily lives (like avoiding that dark alley at night or not keeping your wallet in your back pocket on a crowded subway), there are simple things we should all do to keep ourselves secure online.
One of the most common threats we all face is “phishing” — an attack designed to trick you into giving away important information, like your account passwords, credit card info, or your government ID number. Most of us have gotten an email at some point asking us to help someone transfer money from a foreign bank account — suspicious, right? But today, many people are also receiving emails that look like they’re from trusted service providers like Google or Facebook. These messages can convince you to hand over your passwords and other secure account info. They’re are getting harder and harder to spot, which is why it’s so important to use an extra layer of protection.
Here’s the good news: protecting yourself doesn’t have to be hard. By enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA, or 2FA) on your accounts — that is, by creating a second layer of verification besides just your password — you can seriously up your digital security game. And it only takes a few minutes. Why not make it a New Year’s Resolution to make yourself a little safer online?
Access Now and our partners have put together a series of resources to help you understand all your options and make an informed decision about what kind of protections, especially multi-factor authentication, are best for you:
A Guide to Common Types of Two-Factor Authentication on the Web via Electronic Frontier Foundation
How to Protect Yourself Against Spearphishing: A Comic Explanation via The Intercept
Check Your Account Security: 2-Factor Authentication via Security Planner
List of websites and whether or not they support 2FA via twofactorauth.org
Once you’ve figured out what kind of multi-factor authentication to use — and you’re feeling great about how easy it was to make your accounts more secure! — let your online community know you’ve already checked off one of your resolutions for 2018 by sharing this badge:
And in this season of giving, be sure to spend a few minutes at your next holiday gathering to help your friends and family do the same thing. Some suggested prompts:
- Hey Uncle Joe, remember that time your Skype account got hacked, and your account sent all of your contacts coupons for Viagra? If you enable multi-factor authentication, it’ll be much less likely to happen again.
- Hey Mom, I know you thought that email asking you to update your Gmail password was legit. It wasn’t. Want to talk through how to make sure your account stays safe, even when sketchy things happen?
Digital security isn’t just important for you — it’s important for your whole community. In our jobs, our social interactions, our private family lives, and everything in between, our digital footprint has a lot of info about who we are and the people we care about. For human rights defenders, you can put vulnerable people at risk if you do not adequately protect yourself. Let’s work together to build a culture of smart, informed, self-defending internet users. Talking to your friends and family about multi-factor authentication is a great start.
And remember — #DontPanic. If you’re concerned about certain risks in your environment, or you need help with setting up a method that’s a better fit for your security profile, please reach out to our 24/7 Digital Security Helpline here: https://www.accessnow.org/help