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How to have a safe online presence

M3 India Newsdesk Jun 10, 2018

Here we share top tips for doctors to stay safe from hackers, scammers, and cyber criminals while establishing a meaningful presence on the internet.

As medical professionals, it is always important to stay on top of things, and the same applies to building a good online presence too; one that is safe from hackers, scammers, and cyber criminals.

Doctors may often hear from their peers that they don't want to be online for fear of bad feedback or due to a general fear of the internet. Navigating the internet, using social media to your advantage, and creating an impressive digital footprint has become necessary these days, regardless of the profession one is in.

Here is why you should be present online and how you can do it safely.

To be "active online" or not to be?

Google yourself - type your name in Google and see what you find. You will immediately see that your online persona is as much shaped by others as it is by you. You may decide to stay away from the big bad Internet but you cannot stop others from posting reviews, writing blogs and articles, and uploading pictures about you or your business. Instead of letting others create an image of you, why not do it yourself.

In this day, whether we like it or not, the internet is the real world. Rather than let happenstance shape your image, be active, be present, and build your image yourself. Because if you don't, someone else will do it for you.

Isn't the Internet dangerous and full of hackers?

Yes, that is true. But so is the real world. Just like we learn to adapt, survive and thrive in the real world, we must learn to live in the virtual world too. Fortunately, learning to navigate the online world is not too difficult.

Tell me more, tell me more

There are some basic good practices or hygiene of the online world to follow. Here are the important ones.

Keep your passwords different & safe

Firstly, do not reuse the same password across sites. Especially with sensitive sites like those of banks, insurance, and emails. Luckily, most sites these days also have 2-factor authentication, such as entering OTP along with password. Both Facebook and Google support 2 factor logins. Regardless, it is advisable not to use your favourite password that you use on every other website.

A basic strategy is to make a list of good, hard-to-guess passwords and write them down on paper. Then pick a password from that for your sensitive sites.

Instead of remembering the full password, you only have to remember the serial number of the password that you have used. If you are a little more tech savvy, use a password manager which will generate a new password each time you need one.

A problem with using the same password in multiple sites is that if one site gets compromised, your password could become public, giving way to crackers who can try your now public password in various other sites. However, now there are databases (such as this one) where you can check if your favourite password has already been stolen and is out in public.

Keep your computer updated

Keep your OS updated. New security threats are discovered on a daily basis. OS vendors keep an eye out for these and release updates for such threats. But you are only safe if you are regularly receiving these updates. Even if it may seem like a chore, update your computer as and when prompted to do so.

Beware of phishing emails

'Phishing' sounds and works like 'fishing'. A scammer creates an email that looks like it came from an authority like income tax department or your bank. Then they ask you to click a link and enter your password. However, unknowingly, if you do click on the link, you will be entering your password on the scammer's website. That website will simply store it and show you an unremarkable message like ‘website temporarily busy’. Of course, now they have your password.

The lesson is- simply do not click a link in an email if you don't know the sender or if the email looks suspicious. Also, do not download an attachment from an unknown sender. As a rule, always look in the address bar of the browser to make sure you are on the right site before entering your password.

Learn to identify the correct website

Like the phising email scam described above, some scammers set up a genuine looking website on a domain name which people commonly misspell. Unsuspecting visitors who mistype the address might land there and end up divulging their passwords.

Always check for HTTPS website certificate - it is the green bar on the left-hand side of your browser's address bar, to make sure you are on the right website.

Beware of social engineering

Social hacking, where someone tries to befriend and get information about you, is the most common way of hacking. Do not give sensitive information like passwords, pin, and OTP on phone. Some sites allow someone to recover passwords by answering personal questions. So, make sure the personal questions you select have answers that only you can answer. Also, refrain from using free USB drives received from unknown people on your computer.

Be cautious when you are connected on a Public Wi-Fi

Unless you are accessing a HTTPS website, everything you do on a public wifi is visible to anyone who wants to look. So, it is best to only use it for things which you don't mind other people peeking over.

Secure your Home Wi-Fi

Your home Wi-Fi is of course in your control. However, you should choose a strong password for your Wi-Fi and router. You should also change it frequently since the password keeps getting shared with guests and eventually gets out. Your home Wi-Fi is only as secure as your Wi-Fi password.

Review your social media privacy settings

All popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Whatsapp offer privacy settings around who can see how much of your profile. Unfortunately, many of them set it to be too public. Make a point to review the settings and only disclose things that you really want to make public. Do not disclose things like date of birth, your kids’ and pets' names which can then be used to guess your passwords.

Browser's incognito mode

All browsers now support something called incognito mode where the browser will not remember whatever you do as well as it will not send out any personally identifiable data to any website. Whenever you want any site to not recognize you, switch over to an incognito window.

In conclusion

Don't shy away from being online. Being absent is an opportunity for malicious people to start impersonating you. It is better to be present and build your online presence before that. You can keep a watch on anyone writing about you. Set up Google alert for your name and your business's name and whenever anything new appears in any webpage about you, Google will send you an email.


The author of this article is a technology expert and regularly blogs about technology and it's applications.

Disclaimer- The information and views set out in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of M3 India. Neither M3 India nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.


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