Safe computing skills are foundational digital literacies, affecting every area of your life, with consequences that trickle into our institutions, businesses, and community. Safe computing means to be appropriately informed about the security implications of our digital choices: What we click, where we go, what information we give out, how we keep information safe. You don’t need to be an expert to learn some safe computing skills that can drastically reduce your risk and give you more control over your digital space. This page covers four important skill sets: Securing your device, email security, safe browsing, and password management.
Having a secure device means that you’ve taken steps to ensure that your computer can sufficiently protect the information that passes through it—and that information is important: You might see a collection of vacation photos and shopping receipts, but a hacker sees the keys to your identity and a potential launch point for other attacks. The most important steps are to be rigorous about applying updates, to have an anti-virus, and to password protect your device.
Your email account has special security needs because it can reset the password for almost any other account, it is where you’re exposed to most phishing attacks, and if compromised, it could be used to send malicious emails. If you make good security choices for a single online account, it should be your email. In addition to choosing a strong, unique password for the account, it is important to turn on 2-step verification and to use caution when interacting with emails.
Most of our exposure to digital risk happens on the internet. Clicking the wrong thing or going to the wrong site can be disastrous—So how do we know what is safe and what isn’t? A few general rules of thumb are to browse intentionally, to exercise reasonable suspicion, and to notice what “normal” looks like.
Successful password management is the skill of securing and generating good passwords. For most people, this is the most cumbersome part of their digital life: we have too many passwords and most of them are variations of each other. Fortunately, there are a few good techniques to make passwords less of a hassle, namely using a password manager and creating memorable passwords.