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What is internet security? Everything you need to know in 2024

With so many devices coming online daily, internet security is a growing issue. Malicious actors, from script kiddies to experienced hackers, build on the codes and actions of their predecessors to steal personal data, engage in identity theft, and take your money. To protect yourself and your important data, it’s critical that you stay informed about new threats and the latest internet security solutions you can use to counteract them.

What is internet security? Everything you need to know in 2024

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

What is internet security?

Internet security encompasses the tools and techniques you can use to protect your activities against online threats. Also known as cybersecurity, these measures can limit the dangers presented by scams, malware, and malicious hackers trying to access your personally identifiable information (PII), valuable data, or financial information.

The goal of internet security is to monitor and secure the connection between the user’s device and the other devices and websites that it connects to via the internet. Browser security, website security, and network security measures also protect websites and servers against incoming malicious activities.

The importance of internet security today

Think about how many internet-ready devices you own. With all the phones, laptops, desktop computers, smart speakers, smart TVs, smart cars, watches, kitchen appliances, thermostats, and other devices, you are constantly connected to the internet. More connections, however, means more routes malicious actors have to take advantage of you. Their techniques are constantly changing and becoming more advanced.

Internet security measures can protect against data breaches that result in leaked private data and have already cost companies an average of $4.45 million in 2023. As many as 3,000 attacks last year compromised over 350 million victims globally. Cyberattacks led by phishing, ransomware, and social media scams continue to threaten to disrupt our lives. Luckily, however, more and more users are learning about internet security and taking steps to minimize their online risks.

The most common internet security threats

Internet security threats grow, develop, and multiply constantly. Most of these online threats fall under eight main categories:

Hacking and remote access

Hacking is simply gaining unauthorized access to digital systems. Hacking is malicious if the intent of gaining access is to steal sensitive information, corrupt or delete data, or interfere with a system. Hackers may work from inside local networks or find their way into vulnerable servers and networks through password cracking and other techniques.

Gaining remote access allows them to steal data, disrupt systems, or control the affected device. A new technique called screen hacking can even let a nearby hacker get control of your touchscreen and perform activities on your device when you think it’s turned off.


Malware refers to malicious software that attacks computer users by interfering with their security and privacy. Common types of malware include viruses, worms, ransomware, spyware, wipers, and keyloggers. These malicious programs intentionally disrupt, damage, or gain access to computer systems for malicious purposes.


Ransomware is one of the most prevalent types of malware today. This malicious software infects devices and typically encrypts the user’s files, holding them for a monetary ransom in exchange for a decryption key. An estimated 46% of organizations can’t counteract these attacks and end up paying the requested ransom to regain access to their data.


Phishing attacks involve luring victims into sharing their passwords, sensitive information, or even financial data with scammers. These scammers contact their victims in seemingly legitimate ways and usually direct them to fake websites where they unwittingly give their data away. Most phishing is done by email, but smishing (SMS message phishing) and vishing (voice message phishing) are newer variations of this widespread scamming tactic.

Wi-Fi threats

Wi-Fi connections are designed to make internet networking easy and convenient, and free connections are available all around us. While you can use public Wi-Fi safely, some public networks can also pose risks. Threat actors can try to access these networks and intercept data flow or even convince users to connect to fake networks. They may be able to steal passwords, redirect financial transactions, or install malware on your device.


Botnets are networks of internet-connected devices. Malicious actors use malware to enslave vulnerable devices and use them in attacks, most commonly distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. DDoS attacks can overload and disable website servers, making them unable to provide service to legitimate users.


Spam messages are unsolicited, unwanted communications like emails or text messages. Most spam is annoying as it fills your inbox with messages you don’t want to read. However, some spam is malicious, delivering malware onto your device if you open it or click on links.

Identity theft

Identity theft is when another person uses your personal information to perform activities while pretending to be you. Identity thieves may steal passwords and other login information to gain access to your files or financial accounts. They may also make purchases in your name that never get delivered to you or even leave reviews using your name to improve their reputation, like in brushing scams.

How to secure your online data

With all of these security threats lurking around every dark corner of the internet, there may seem to be no safety for users at all. Luckily, security experts continue to fight against these threats and find ways to help keep you safe and secure online. You can protect yourself in several ways:

Use antivirus/anti-malware software

Antivirus/anti-malware software is security software that identifies viruses and other malware threats. If possible, they block suspicious software scripts from being loaded onto your device. They also scan for, detect, and remove malware that has found its way onto your system. IT experts are constantly developing and updating antivirus/anti-malware software to protect you from known threats, including many of the latest ones.

Use a VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) provides an encrypted connection that you can use to connect to the internet. A VPN protects your online traffic by changing your IP address and encrypting it. It can also protect you from some of the most common types of hacking, like session hijacking and DDoS attacks. For example, NordVPN also has malware protection features that may help users to prevent cyber attacks.

Create strong passwords

If your password is your name followed by your birth year or 1234, you have one of the weakest, most easy-to-guess passwords out there. Weak passwords can make you vulnerable to even the most inexperienced hackers. In contrast, strong passwords that use long strings of randomly generated numbers, letters, and symbols are nearly impossible to crack. You should also use unique passwords for the different online services you access so that your other accounts can stay safe even if one is compromised.

Use 2FA

Two-factor authentication (2FA) provides a second layer of protection when you access online accounts and services. 2FA usually involves a password as one protection factor and a temporary security token or biometric data as the second factor. Threat actors may be able to compromise one of these factors, but they’re much less likely to be able to crack both of them.

Use a secure browser

There are plenty of web browsers to choose from, but white-list browsers are more secure. The most secure browsers, like Tor, Chrome, Firefox, and Brave, allow private browsing, block pop-ups, scan for phishing attempts, and block access to known malicious websites. These browsers help to maintain your online privacy and protect you against malicious scripts.

Avoid clicking on malicious links

When you receive a message from what looks like a real institution like your bank, the post office, or another government institution, you might trust it outright. Don’t. Instead, think about how and why the organization is contacting you and whether it would have any legitimate reason to do so. You can hover over the links to see where they lead without clicking on them. Don’t click the link if you don’t recognize the website it connects to.

Use a firewall

A firewall is internet security software that screens known malicious or suspicious internet traffic from your network. Firewalls check security certificates from websites and flag activity that seems suspicious.

Update your software

Threat actors are constantly looking for ways to breach computer security. At the same time, software developers work non-stop to look for vulnerabilities and fix them by offering updates. If you update your software regularly, you can prevent hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities and close the door to malware infections. Updating your software also improves its speed and functionality, so there’s really nothing to lose.

How to protect your children online

Internet security also applies to accessing content that might be risky or inappropriate, which is critical for protecting children. Parents should monitor their children’s screen time and set their passwords and security settings.

Internet security for kids also includes setting parental controls and using a kids’ web browser to limit what they can access. While these controls are designed to keep inappropriate websites and video content out of your kids’ reach, parents should always check what their kids have been looking at to ensure it’s safe.

How to secure your mobile internet

Your mobile devices go everywhere you go, making you connected and reachable at all times. They also collect information about your location and preferences. If someone compromises your mobile security, you might face more significant risks than with standard desktop computers. You can strengthen your mobile security in several ways:

Check if your phone has been hacked

If someone compromises your phone security, your data and accounts can all be at risk. Most of us use our phones to access financial services, so if a hacker gains access to our phones, they might also gain access to our money. Signs your phone was hacked include things like new apps on the device that you don’t recognize and settings that have suddenly changed, seemingly by themselves.

Another big indication of phone hacking is poor performance — your phone may run slowly, or its battery might drain much faster than usual. If you notice these signs, you should protect your accounts immediately and run an antivirus software scan.

Remove spyware

Spyware is a type of malware designed to collect sensitive information and transmit it back to a malicious actor. Spyware could be placed on your phone if you let someone unreliable use it, or through a Trojan that may infect your phone when you download unofficial apps.

Spyware can track your whereabouts, listen in on your calls, read your messages, and even collect your passwords. Again, you’ll need to scan your device with antivirus/anti-malware software and remove suspicious apps or those you don’t recall downloading.

Delete your social media accounts

If you have a social media app tied to an account you don’t use anymore, it’s a good idea to delete the account and the app. Unused accounts present excellent opportunities for hackers to attack your internet security. These accounts can be tied to logins for other services that you may have used your credit card for, and they contain your personal information, which means they make you vulnerable to fraud and identity theft. You don’t have to completely delete yourself from the internet, but cleaning up old traces can increase your security.

Delete the cache

You can increase your smartphone security by deleting the cache of your apps, browsers, and the entire system. Not only can this speed up your phone, but these caches of old data could also contain outdated files that cybercriminals may be able to exploit.

How to secure your internet network

Your home or business computer network lets you share data and communicate between linked devices. However, if a hacker breaks into at least one of these devices, the entire network might be at risk. That’s why it’s crucial to take action to improve your network security.

Check out our video for an overview of network security and tips on how to strengthen it:

Secure your Wi-Fi router

Every device in your network connects to the internet through your router. However, router malware can infect your router and your whole network if your router software is outdated. So make sure to regularly update your router software. To protect your home Wi-Fi or business network, you should also change the factory preset logins to new ones and use strong passwords.

Control network access

Because the security of your network is so important, you need to control who has access to it at all times. Focus on the three A’s of network access control — authentication, authorization, and accounting.

Controllers ensure all network users have verified identities and only let them connect with the correct login information. Different users may also have limited access to different parts of the network to keep sensitive data safe. Controllers should also monitor connection attempts to look out for malicious actors and harden security measures against them.

Implement secure web gateways

A web security gateway adds extra protection to your network. These security software solutions filter web traffic, helping to keep your network safe from websites and malicious software that can infect your systems. Inline and cloud-based gateway services stand between your network and the internet, only allowing traffic that follows strict security policies.

Internet security protects against cyber threats

There are people out there who want to steal your data, take your money, and use your identity for criminal purposes. While you take steps to keep yourself physically safe, it’s equally important to ensure the safety of your personal information, valuable data, and digital funds.

Cybersecurity experts are continually working to make the internet a safer place. However, there are also many things that you, as a user, can do to reduce the internet security threats against yourself and make using the internet a safer and more enjoyable experience.