Get Smart On the Web

The SmartOn Series is like your Internet owner’s manual: the place to learn the most useful intel and tips from Mozilla policy peeps and programmers.

Ask yourself

  1. Do you check for a secure connection when browsing the Web? Do you know how to recognize one?

  2. Are you doing as much to secure your online information as you do your personal property?

  3. How many passwords do you use, and how long have you had them?

Cybersecurity explained

As intimidating as it may sound, cybersecurity is actually really simple: it just means protecting yourself and your information online. You can’t prevent every threat out there – online or off. But you can definitely minimize your risk with some awareness and common sense.

This PBS’ Nova Labs video offers great background on cybersecurity.

The Three Watch-Outs

Protecting yourself starts with knowing what to look out for. Here’s a quick rundown of the three most common cybersecurity threats:


Malicious hackers use all kinds of tricks to access and exploit your personal information. Like phishing (e.g. a fake bank email asking for your personal information), spamming, hacked accounts and the classic “Nigerian Prince” email (also called a “419 scam”). Healthy skepticism is your best friend on this front.

Test your phishing knowledge


Viruses, worms, Trojan horses… These nasty little programs are designed to infect your machine to cause damage, steal personal information, spy or force ads on you. Avoiding malware means being smart about where you click.

Network and Computer Attacks

Websites and networks are vulnerable to attacks from the simple to the very sophisticated. This threat is the hardest to prevent. But you can put a few more barriers between yourself and the attackers.

Build your safety net

Improve your security online with these safety measures recommended by Mozilla policy pros.

Look both ways

The first and most important thing is just to pay close attention to where and when you click.

Trust your gut

If a link or download doesn’t feel quite right, it probably isn’t. Make sure you install programs only from verified trusted sources, and don’t click on anything that looks even remotely suspicious – even when you think you know the source.

Watch yourself in public

When you navigate the Web on a public Wi-Fi network, anyone who chooses to snoop can see some or all of your activity. So avoid sensitive activities when surfing in public. And before you share any kind of info anywhere online, think about how it might make you vulnerable.

Lock your doors

Strong password practices are your single best protection against almost every kind of threat on the Web.

Choose strong PINs and passwords

Here are some Mozilla tips for creating a strong password for every device and account. And get in the habit of changing your passwords once a year.

Don’t use a single password everywhere

Would you use the same key for your front door, your car, and your safety deposit box? Probably not. Keep track with a password manager instead.

Do the two-step

For the best protection, take advantage of 2-step authentication wherever it’s offered. Find out more.

In case of emergency

Here’s what to do if you think your account has been compromised.

Fix it before it breaks

Software updates are like oil changes ­– they can be a hassle in the moment, but a lifesaver in hindsight. Update apps and devices regularly to take advantage of developers’ latest and greatest security enhancements.

Install a security system

Now that you’ve handled the basics, set the alarm. These programs prevent and protect against cyber surprises.

Anti-virus software

It won’t protect against everything, but it’s a good start. Here are two free options:

Firefox Add-ons

These add-ons will help you identify what you’re clicking before you click:

  • Long URL please — replaces most shortened URLs with the originals so you know the destination
  • URL Tooltip — displays the destination of a link when hovering over it

Blast your cybersecurity smarts

The more we talk, share tips and stay alert about cybersecurity, the safer we all are. Keep the conversation going with your community on social media, at home — maybe even on that public Wi-Fi at the airport.

  1. How many online passwords do you have? Tweet this

  2. What kind of security tips and tricks do you use online? Tweet this

  3. On a scale from 1 to 10, how safe do you feel online? Is it always clear to you whether or not your activities are secure? Tweet this