Celebrate World Wide Web Day: The Evolution of Web Safety

The World Wide Web, invented in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee, has undoubtedly made our lives more convenient in so many ways. 

For example, family road trips looked a lot different than they do today. Preteens were designated backseat navigators, with huge atlases spread across their laps, yelling “Turn left here! No wait, right!” Then, when you finally arrived at your destination, what was there to do? Time to poll the hotel concierge, gas station attendants, and grocery store clerks about the best places to visit and directions on how to get there. 

Now, your car and phone can speak to you in a calm voice, guide you where you need to go, and tell you what to do once you get there. Life changing! 

However, the Web also has made our lives more complicated in several ways. The number of cybercrimes — in variety and prevalence — seem to rise every day. Luckily, what has also become more sophisticated are our available tools to combat cybercriminals and protect our online information, privacy, and identity. 

Here’s a look back at the evolution of cyberthreats and cyber-protection to commemorate World Wide Web Day and share some tips on how to use the Web safely and with confidence. 

Then: Viruses and Malware 

In the early days of the Web, viruses and malware caused many a desktop computer to fall into disrepair. Though, whenever anyone caught a virus of the cyber variety, they were never too surprised. That was usually the cost of illegally downloading music or videos or clicking on pop-ups from sites that were notorious for spreading malicious software. 

Now: Phishing 

Fast forward to today and viruses and malware have been disguised by phishing, a tactic where malicious software is hidden within legitimate-looking electronic correspondences (email, text, or direct message). People are now wise to which sketchy websites to avoid, so, to spread their malicious software, cybercriminals use false authority and play on people’s emotions to get them to click on dangerous links and divulge valuable personal information. Phishing can result in huge financial losses. One study calculates that companies lose $15 million annually to phishing.1 Here are a few tips to avoid falling for a phishing attempt and keep your family’s personal information safe: 

Always hover your cursor over links before clicking. Before clicking on any link, make sure to check where it will direct you to. If the URL has typos or redirects to a completely new website you don’t recognize, do not click it and delete the message. 
Take your time. Lots of phishers rely on intense emotions to get people to act quickly without thinking about what’s being asked of them. If you receive a suspicious message urging you to act fast to avoid dire consequences, it’s best to step back and take a breath. For example, the IRS will never tell you to reply to an email in an hour or they’ll throw you in jail for tax evasion. Never reply to emails asking for your password, Social Security Number, banking details, etc. 
When in doubt, follow up with the official source. If you receive a suspicious email from your bank or an out-of-character direct message from a social media connection, do not reply to the message. Instead, call them, send them a separate email, or start a chat with customer service to clarify that they indeed sent that message and confirm what action, if any, is required. 
Invest in antivirus software. McAfee antivirus has been a go-to antivirus software provider for decades. Today, McAfee antivirus is a trusted protector of 600 million devices! It guards against viruses and malware, but also against more modern cyberthreats such as ransomware and phishing. 

Then: Desktop Security 

In the 1990s, portable phones weren’t in everyone’s pockets. And the cellphones that were available to the public at a reasonable price certainly didn’t connect to the Web. The average person was concerned primarily with their desktop security. As long as users steered clear of malicious software, subscribed to an antivirus, and didn’t leave their password on a sticky note on their desk, they were likely to remain in the clear.   

Now: Mobile and Desktop Security 

Today, homes have multiple connected devices, all of which require that people protect them with great cyber-habits, passwords, and technology. Even your smart home assistants are vulnerable to cyberthreats. Don’t worry though, there are plenty of easy things you can do every day to keep your family’s information and devices safe. 

Starting with passwords: The best passwords and passphrases are the ones you don’t have to remember. Apple is actually trying to eliminate the need for typing in passwords, instead relying on biometric security measures, such as face facial recognition and fingerprint scanning.2 If your device doesn’t have these scanning capabilities, a password manager is an excellent way to safeguard your passwords to all your accounts. McAfee True Key guards your passwords with one of the strongest encryption algorithms available. On top of that, multi-factor authentication is another layer of security that stops thieves from stealing your passwords and trading them on the dark Web. With a password manager, you’ll never have to write down, reuse, or worry about forgetting your password and username combinations. 

Next, a VPN for your mobile devices and desktop is another great shield against cybercriminals. A virtual private network hides your location data and makes it extremely difficult for public wi-fi eavesdroppers to track your movements on the Web. It’s a great practice to never connect any device to a public wi-fi connection without a VPN, especially if you’re online shopping, handling sensitive information, or banking online. 

Finally, another key tool in ensuring your mobile and desktop security is knowing where you stand: How protected are you? What are some habits you should improve? How can you constantly monitor your safety and be in the know when your status changes? The answer: McAfee Protection Score. This unique service scans your wi-fi connection, the dark Web, and data breach records for threats to your personally identifiable information (PII) and connected device. Then, the software recommends ways to improve your security, in turn boosting your score. It’s a quick and visual way to evaluate your habits and make sure you’re doing everything you can to protect your connected family. 

Then: Dumpster Diving Identity Theft 

In the infancy of the World Wide Web, identity theft via the internet wasn’t really a thing. Mostly, identities and PII were stolen through discarded mail, overheard conversations, or stealing someone’s physical wallet.  

Now: Cyber Identity Theft 

Identity theft is a major concern. Cybercriminals are becoming smarter and more determined to release PII on the dark Web for profit. Phishing, social media snooping, data breaches, and hacking are common modern ways criminals steal valuable personal information, in addition to low-tech dumpster diving and wallet theft. With your full name, birthdate, and Social Security Number, criminals can cause severe damage to your credit that could take years and a large investment to repair. 

Some tips to avoid being a victim of identity theft is to improve your phishing detection skills, avoid oversharing on social media, delete old accounts you don’t use anymore and know how to identify the signs of identity theft. An identity monitoring service, like McAfee Advanced Protection, is your all-in-one privacy and identity protection service for your digital life. It covers you for $1 million in identity theft coverage and restoration. Plus, the service includes all the important tools outlined above: antivirus, VPN, password manager, and Protection Score. 

This World Wide Web Day, Celebrate Your Web Confidence 

The Web, not to be confused with the internet, is the collection of pages that one can access using the internet. You likely use it every day, thus it’s key to navigate it safely and with confidence. The Web has come a long way, and in a decade, it’s likely to look completely different than it does right now. The key is to be adaptable and careful and have the right tools to help you fill in the gaps.  

1Ponemon Institute, “The 2021 Cost of Phishing Study 

2CNET, “Apple Is Trying to Kill Passwords With Passkeys Using Touch ID and Face ID 

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