The wonder of the Internet

The Internet, a global network that connects us to each other and also to many resources online, is probably one of the most wonderful inventions of humankind. It has become one of the most powerful tools for everyone. 

Nowadays, most people are now almost always connected to the Internet through their smart phones. The Internet offers massive opportunities for doing good as well as doing bad. It is just a neutral tool. How you use it is in your hands. 

The opportunity to learn is one of the best things that Internet provides. You can learn almost anything from the Internet. I know a lot of Bhutanese who have successfully learnt how to build websites, edit videos, do graphic design, bake cakes, and cook various dishes from Youtube. 

If you are a business owner or an individual with a skill, the Internet offers you the opportunity to upscale your business or provide services to others using your skills. A writer could start a blog or start writing content for others for a fee. An artist could start a website showcasing his or her arts and find buyers from far and wide, and now he can even turn them into NFTs (Non Fungible Tokens). A plumber could advertise his services to more people using a Facebook page. Business owners can take advantage of digital marketing to attract more customers. The possibilities are endless. 

But along with the opportunities comes risks when you are online. Whatever you do online becomes exposed to the others unless you are careful about your personal data, and what you post online. 

Data privacy defines who has access to data, especially your personal data, while data protection deals with tools and policies to restrict access to the data by unauthorized individuals or groups. For example, in regulations like the GDPR in Europe, an individual has full right over his or her personal data, and others should only be able to access them with his or her own permission. This is data privacy. On the other hand, agencies that collect our personal information such as the banks, telecom companies or government departments have a duty to ensure that the personal data they collect are securely protected and not compromised. This is data protection. Data privacy and protection are very important as our online and offline lives become increasingly intertwined.  

Why data privacy and data protection matter

Data privacy and protection are important because they can relate to sensitive personal information which you would not want others to know. Would you want your personal information such as your health and medical information, employment status, personal wealth etc. to become public? Let us say you have applied for a certain position, and you failed to get shortlisted. Are you okay if that agency publishes this information with your identifiable details online? 

According to experts, aata protection and privacy are typically applied to personal health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII). You can read more about these subjects by searching online with these keywords.  

Key online safety tips

Avoid becoming victim of phishing attacks

The practice of sending fraudulent message that appears to come from a reputable source with the intention to dupe the receiver is called ‘phishing’. Many Bhutanese have become victims of phishing. One common phishing attack come from hacked Email, Facebook or WhatsApp accounts in which the hacker asks close friends and relatives to share OTP or send them money giving very convincing reasons. 

To avoid falling victim to such frauds, always confirm by calling your friend or relative directly if you get requests to share OTP or send money urgently from them. People who work in accounts department should always double check emails related to cross border fund transfers in case phishing attempts are made to divert funds to the wrong accounts. Such attacks have happened in the past. Beware that phishing attacks can come disguised as an email or message from your Bank, Internet service provider or Email service provider. 

Be careful who you meet online

People you meet online are not always who they claim to be. There have been cases in the past in which Bhutanese were asked by their online friends to act as intermediary to receive and forward parcels with dubious contents to final destination for a small financial reward. If the contents happen to be ‘drugs’, this could land you in long prison terms. So, do not become accomplice of online friends for such acts. 

Take care of your online presence 

Nowadays, one of the first things employers do is look at your Facebook, Instagram or other social media accounts to try to understand what kind of person you are. There have been many cases around the world in which potential candidates lost their chances of getting hired because of what they had posted online in the past. So, while it is important that you be authentic and not give a false impression, it is equally important that a picture of your one-time drinking spree with your friends do not spoil your future career opportunities. 

An expert advices, “Any comment or image you post online may stay online forever because removing the original (say, from Twitter) does not remove any copies that other people made. There is no way for you to “take back” a remark you wish you hadn’t made, or get rid of that embarrassing selfie you took at a party. Don’t put anything online that you wouldn’t want your mom or a prospective employer to see.”

Use safe browsing practices

Web browsers and social media apps have settings available to protect your privacy online. Enable these privacy safeguards, and keep them enabled at all times. Marketers and hackers love to know all about you. 

Secondly, do not visit dangerous sites online. Because people are easily attracted to porn, cybercriminals use them as bait. So, be especially careful if you visit a lot of porn sites. Further, stop clicking on all the pop up ads that come up. And do not download unnecessary software that look suspicious or come from a site you don’t trust. “A top goal of cybercriminals is to trick you into downloading malware—programs or apps that carry malware or try to steal information. This malware can be disguised as an app: anything from a popular game to something that checks traffic or the weather,” says an expert. 

Choose strong passwords and protect them with great care

Most cybersecurity breaches or hacks are results of password leakage. So, choose them with care, and change them often. Do not use same passwords for different email or social media accounts. Nowadays, we have so many passwords to remember that it is virtually impossible to remember all of them. So, use password managers like 

Make sure that your passwords are not saved in web browsers of shared computers. If you let your friends use your computer and if you have your passwords saved in your web browser’s settings, they can see it.