Skip to main content

Personal Cyber Security Resources for Older Adults: Navigating the Internet Safely

A guide to building personal cyber security awareness for older adults

Navigating the Internet Safely

Certain behaviors online may not seem like much, but you can easily become a target for fraud if you’re not careful with where you share your personal information. Awareness on how to navigate the web safely is a key element to personal cyber security.  Sharing your personal information must always be done securely, and with reliable parties.  

If a site is offering something extravagant in exchange for personal information you should probably steer clear.  A common scenario are sites that offer free downloads for desktop images and screen savers in exchange for email addresses and phone numbers.  There are many images and screen savers freely available that do not require this type of exchange. Understanding the risks and recognizing the red flags will help you make informed decisions on how and where you should share your information.

Public Wi-Fi - Helpful Tips

Connecting to the Wi-Fi,  especially one that does not require a password at a public space like your local coffee shop or a hotel, can pose some security risks.  Unlike our Wi-Fi at home, public networks are typically unsecured. Depending on the sites you visit should be a level of caution when using public Wi-Fi.


  • While on public Wi-FI:
  • Don’t access your personal bank accounts 
  • Don’t make purchases 
  • Don’t access or share sensitive personal information 
  • Disable file sharing to avoid receiving unwanted files, or allowing access to your device and its contents


Step by step guide on how to disable file sharing on Mac and PC 


For a PC:

1. Go to Network and Sharing Center

2. Select Change advanced sharing settings

3.Turn off file and printer sharing


For Mac

1. Go to System Preferences

2. Go to Sharing

3. Unselect everything 

4. Now go to Finder

5. Select AirDrop

6. Choose Allow me to be discovered by: No One


Blue book with white letters that read Stay Safe Online and Protect Your Privacy


Stay Safe Online and Protect Your Privacy by Nick Vandome 

ISBN: 9781840788679

Publication Date: 2019

This guide offers information on privacy and general safety while navigating the web. It offers an overview on some of the common threats and how to deal with them.

Blue book with black letters that read Understanding the Digital World

Understanding the Digital World: What You Need to Know About Computers, the Internet, Privacy, and Security by Brian W. Kernighan

ISBN: 9780691176543
Publication Date: 2017

This book offers a thorough explanation of computing and communicating safely for non-technical readers. 

Secure Web Browsing

An important element to personal cyber security is ensuring your web browsing is secure.  

One way to do this is by making sure the websites you visit and enter information into are secure:

  • Taking a look at the navigation bar located at the top of your web browser is the simplest way to confirm that the website you are visiting is secure
  • You will see a lock on the left side of the web address bar.  If the lock appears locked, it means you are visiting a secure site.  An open lock which denotes the connection is not secure. 
  • Some browsers, like Google Chrome, will automatically alert you that the connection is not secure:

  screenshot image of web browser bar showing secure in green letters and not secure alerts in red letters

Wired. (2016). Google’s chrome hackers are about to upend your idea of web security.
Screen shot of web browser alerting in red letters "Your connection to this site is not secure"

Screenshot Captured by Vanessa Castaldo (2020)

Another way to confirm a website connection is secure is to look at the navigation bar in the web browser:

  • Making sure the website URL address begins with “HTTPS” as opposed to “HTTP”.  The additional “S” is an added layer of security referred to as an SSL certificate.  
  • This certificate should appear on sites where you would input personal credentials such as passwords, credit card or bank information for purchases. The added layer of protection will encrypt your personal information, so that it appears hidden to any third parties that are attempting to access it.  

Cartoon image of two women with arrows pointing to green and red circles SeoPressor Blog (2019) HTTP vs. HTTPS: The difference and everything you need to know.

Cartoon image of badger with white letters that read Privacy Badger, on an orange background

Another way to ensure safe web browsing is to install a web browser plug-in to prevent advertisers and third parties from tracking your activity.  One option is Privacy Badger developed by the non-profit organization Electronic Frontier Foundation. If you’ve ever browsed a product online and then later on seen it appear as an ad on other websites, then your browsing activity has been tracked.  Privacy Badger stops advertisers from loading more content across pages that you visit. For more information on Privacy Badger click here. 


Privacy Badger can be downloaded for Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox:

Download instructions for Google Chrome
Download instructions for Mozilla

Electronic Frontier Foundation. (2020). EFF photos.


Zoom Privacy Concerns

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are at home using Zoom to connect with coworkers, friends and loved ones. Many reports of Zoom meetings being hijacked have emerged. Although Zoom offers a convenient platform for video conferencing, its privacy policy does not explicitly guarantee the safety of your information or access to your webcam by third parties. This can affect the entire household if you are sharing a computer with others who are accessing Zoom. 


As the situation continues to progress Zoom has continued to update some of their security and privacy measures.


Here are some tips on how to navigate through these privacy concerns, reflecting the most current updates:


  • It’s best to use Zoom on a mobile device, like a tablet or smartphone.  Mobile applications are subject to a more stringent review process by the Apple and Google app stores

  • Use Zoom with caution and try not to share sensitive information while in your meetings.

  • When creating your meeting, make sure the link is only shared with those who are invited

  • Require a meeting password for your meetings or use the waiting room feature to control the admittance of your guests. This will keep any unwanted parties from entering.

  • Manage the screen sharing options in your meetings. In the settings change to "Host Only"

‚ÄčIf you have been a victim of a Zoom teleconference hijacking report it to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center at

Cartoon image of a zoom video chat with three people and a fourth intruder peeking through

Illustration by Sam Whitney (Wired Article, 2020)

How to Keep Your Zoom Chats Private and Secure - Wired -- A helpful article published by Wired on how to keep your Zoom meetings secure.  


Wired. (2020) How to keep your zoom chats private and secured.


Cartoon image of laptops open, one in the center has an image of an eye on it

Illustration by EFF (EFF Article, 2020)

Harden Your Zoom Settings to Protect Your Privacy and Avoid Trolls - -- This article was published by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on Zoom settings and how to set up private and secure meetings.


Electronic Frontier Foundation. (2020). Harden your zoom settings to protect your privacy and avoid trolls.

Web Resources

The following are some resources available on the web regarding the topic of safe web navigation and online safety. 


US Dept of Homeland Security Logo and blue letters that read CISA cyber and infrastructure

Department of Homeland Security - Securing Your Web Browser  -- This guide offers tips on how to secure your web browser for safe internet navigation.  It covers some basic how-to information and also offers more advanced resources on how to keep your computer secure. 


Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. (2015). Securing your web browser.

A cartoon image of a laptop with a check mark, a lock and a shield

Illustration by Safety Detectives (Safety Detectives Article, 2018)

The Ultimate Internet Safety Guide for Seniors - -- This guide offers more tips and guidelines for safe web navigation.  It also offers information on ad blockers, antivirus software and common scams.  


Safety Detectives. (2018). The ultimate internet safety guide for seniors.

An unlocked lock with wifi bars above it, on an aqua background

Illustration by HOTLITTLEPOTATO  (Wired Article 2018)

How to Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi - Wired  -- This article from Wired offers some simple steps on what else you can do to stay safe on public Wi-Fi.  

Nield, D. (2018, August 5). How to stay safe on public wi-fi.


An image of a shield with headphones around it, on a pink and purple background

Illustration by Mozilla (Mozilla Blog, 2019)

Top 10 Podcast Episodes About Online Privacy - Mozilla -- This list of podcasts was curated by the staff at Mozilla. These podcast episodes explore online privacy and come from a larger catalog of podcasts that cover current tech news and trends.  

Smiley, M. (2019, September 19). Top 10 podcast episodes about online privacy. Mozilla Blog.