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Safely using the Internet

Any device that connects to the Internet can be exposed to potential online threats. That’s why it’s important to take simple steps like these to help protect yourself:

  • Regularly update your software and operating system. Upgrades have the latest technology, which can make them more secure and worth the investment to stay up to date.
  • Ensure that you have an up-to-date network firewall and that the firewall that is part of your computer’s operating system is also running and up to date.
  • Keep your anti-virus software up to date and consider regular scans for spyware and malware.
  • Choose strong passwords you can remember without writing them down and keep your password private.
  • Review your credit card and bank statements monthly and log in to your accounts regularly to check the activity.
  • Be careful when using a public computer or your own computer on a public network (such as a coffee shop). Do not visit your financial institutions’ websites, or enter any personal information or passwords. Be sure that no one else can see your password, if you choose to enter one.

Learn more about protecting your digital footprint and protecting older adults online.

A social engineering scam uses psychological manipulation to get people to do things or give out confidential information. It can be done on the Internet, over the telephone or in person. For example:

  • An email or text that looks legitimate may offer a special deal or a refund, ask you to update account information or inform you of a computer problem that requires you to click on a link.
  • A caller may try to sell new rate plans (that are phony), ask you to complete a survey, promise you some kind of incentive, or they may tell you that they’re updating your account and want you to confirm details.
  • A pre-recorded message may promise you travel rewards or a credit on your next bill and direct you to a fake website (that looks legitimate) or to a 1-800 number.

The goal is to trick you into sharing passwords, PINs, banking or credit card details. Once the scammer obtains the desired information, they can use it for fraud, such as identity theft, industrial espionage and other criminal activities, or simply to disrupt the normal course of business.

Your browser is an important part of your computer’s security. Keep your browser and security systems (anti-virus software, firewalls, etc.) up to date.

Practice good browsing habits

  • Pay attention to the links you click on and don’t assume a link is safe just because you found it in a way that seems safe (e.g., using a popular search engine).
  • Don’t install something just because a web page suddenly tells you that you need it.
  • Be wary of surveys that suddenly appear in a new browser window claiming you can receive rewards like a new smartphone. These are often a type of subscription scam, trying to get you to not read the fine print so a vendor can make recurring charges to your credit card.

Learn more about navigating safely on the Internet.

Social networks are a great way to stay connected with others, but cybercriminals can use the information people share to launch an attack. Using personal information gathered from a social media site to construct a highly personalized attack (spear-phishing) increases the chances that the subject will fall for the deception.

Keep security top of mind when engaging online and follow these tips for enhanced social media security:

  • Set up unique and secure passwords: your personal passwords should be 12 to 18 characters long and contain a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Using a password manager makes it easier to create longer passwords for each application.
  • Enable multi-factor authentication: this feature will protect you from hackers, as it prompts a second verification code from your device that only you can confirm.
  • Check your account security settings: make it a habit to review your social media account privacy and security settings periodically, as they may change without your consent or knowledge.
  • Review and watch your friend list/connections: monitor your existing connections to find and remove any suspicious profiles. Be cautious of friend requests from people you already have a connection with, as this could be a sign their account has been compromised or a phony account was set up.
  • Think before you post: cybercriminals use social media to learn about their potential victims. For example, sharing your mother’s maiden name or favourite teacher can allow a cybercriminal to answer your bank account security questions.

Learn more about protecting your social media interactions.

Risks for children using the Internet

Without filtering and monitoring, your children could accidentally see or share unsuitable content online, or be drawn into inappropriate conversations/exchanges, such as cyberbullying.

Enable parental controls wherever possible to help filter your child's Internet experience.

Internet safety for children

Guide your children to safe, trusted websites. Teach them not to give out their real name, age, address or phone number online.

Ask your kids to show you what they are doing online, and discuss their Internet experiences with them.

Don’t allow your children to use computers unsupervised.

Teach your kids to think carefully and critically about Internet “friends” and information.

Learn which sites your children want to use and decide which are safe to visit and with whom they can chat or email.

Children should:

  • Only use nicknames online, not real names
  • Never give out personal information online
  • Tell a parent right away if they receive inappropriate material or messages
  • Delete emails from strangers and never agree to meet someone in person that they’ve met on the Internet
  • Never accept files or downloads from people they do not know

Learn more about protecting your kids online.


Cyberbullying is the use of e-mail, websites, instant messaging, chat rooms, social-networking sites or text messaging to damage someone’s reputation and feelings of self-worth.

Learn about cyberbullying and what to do about it by visiting Public Safety Canada’s Cyberbullying page. Help protect children from exploitation is Canada’s national tip line for reporting online sexual exploitation of children. It also provides tips on keeping kids safe on the Internet.

Visit or call 1 866 658-9022.