6 Tips to Keep You Safe Online
Like it or not, the Internet is now part of our daily lives. While it is laden with wonderful informative things and a lifetime of educational readings, it also has its “bad neighborhoods” and underhanded computer and website hackers. With online dangers increasing every day, it is important to be careful when you’re online and learn safety tips that you and your family can follow to keep yourselves and your data safe. Following these tips can help keep you protected while online and steer clear of trouble.
1. Be Proactive In your Defense
The following list is a simple yet effective way to put a wall up between you and the not-so-friendly parts of the Internet. Taking these steps will provide a fundamental barrier to help keep your family and your data safe.
- Keep your computer updated with recommended security updates using update programs from your operating system vendor, such as Microsoft Update or a similar program.
- Make sure to install and properly configure legitimate antivirus and antispyware software. Remember to update the software on a frequent basis as viruses and malware are introduced on the Internet every day.
- Make sure that your Internet firewall is always on and functioning. Even when you are not using the computer, the firewall should be on.
- If you have a wireless network, make sure that you have a strong password and monitor your wireless router activity on a regular basis.
- Always confirm senders before opening emails, attachments, and/or instant messages. If possible, have your antivirus program scan all emails for viruses prior to opening them.
- If it looks suspicious, don’t click it!
2. Be Smart When Creating Passwords
A strong password is vital in protecting your electronic data, which can include important things like credit card numbers, social security numbers and bank account information. As a general guideline, your passwords should be at least eight or more characters, include letters, punctuation marks, symbols, and numbers. The greater variety of characters in your passwords, the better protected you are. Never use the word “password” as your password, or easily guessable phrases like “abc123”. Most computer hackers and identity thieves will try these simple passwords in their initial attack to break into your personal information. An example of a good password would be KwiM#1rO (Knowledgewave is my #1 resource Online).
Change your passwords often and use a variety of passwords, when necessary. Create email reminders to change all of your passwords periodically and never use the same password for multiple purposes. Never use the same password for every single thing. Cybercriminals will steal your user data and passwords from websites that have inadequate security and then attempt to use these passwords on high security websites, such as your bank website.
3. Be Extremely Careful With Your Personal Information
It is imperative to be careful and conscious of where you share your personal information. Be aware of who may ask for your information. At times, you may be required by legitimate entities to divulge personal information such as your social security number to a state unemployment website, or your home address to your 401K management website. Be overly cautious whenever you give out this information and never give out personal information to anyone who approaches you asking for it.
Be aware of what you use in your email signatures. Avoid placing your company name, title, phone numbers, and email addresses in your signature file unless your company requires you to do so. If you must have a signature file, do not use the email account to participate in public forums or for other public websites.
Check what’s already out there! Search engines like Google and Yahoo! have the capability of searching the web for your name. If you place quotation marks around your name in the search engine and do a search, you will see any mentions of your name that the search engines have found online. You can visit these sites to find out what, if any, of your personal information is already out there. Make sure you check family members’ names as well.
Most importantly, use your common sense and don’t give your passwords out to anyone. Remember, no legitimate company will ever ask you for your password. There are rare cases when support people will ask you for your password, but make sure that it is only when you call them, you feel comfortable, and the password is absolutely required. Afterward, you should immediately change the password.
4. Be Aware of Your Children’s Online Behavior
Monitoring your children’s internet use is critical to keeping your data safe. No matter how much security software you have on your computer, nothing compares to personally monitoring your kids’ Internet activity. An involved, concerned parent is the best protection for children.
In today’s socially slanted Internet environment and social networks like Facebook and Twitter maintain their dominance, watching your children’s online behavior is more paramount than ever. All it takes is a single mistake and your personal information – phone number, address, place of employment – can spread across the Internet like wildfire. This brings about dangers that can become a parent’s worst nightmare. A parent can never be too concerned over their children, so do whatever you need to do to keep you and your family safe from online dangers, which can turn into offline dangers as well. Even if it means taking unsupervised Internet access away from your child, it’s better than many consequences of not doing it.
5. Be Cautious With Social Networks
Speaking of Facebook and Twitter, many cybercriminals use social networking sites to gather information about you in order to answer security questions to gain access to your online account. You should limit the information you share online and remember, never post anything you would not want on a roadside billboard. Be extremely cautious in posting pictures of yourself and your children online or allowing anyone else to. As sensitive as this may be, the fact is that there are predators lurking the Internet to find the perfect person and/or child to stalk. Avoid attracting trouble altogether and help keep this from happening to you and your family. Again, educating your children about these dangers is not only very important, it is eye-opening for many kids.
6. Inform Yourself of Current Online Scams
It seems as if every day we hear about a new online scam that is deceiving unwitting Internet users of their money. To stay as safe as possible, you need to be aware of the latest scams that are spreading across the Internet and avoid them at all costs. You can use Google to research the latest scams, but make sure any links you click on are from trusted sites. You may also wish to frequent websites like http://www.snopes.com that post the latest popular scams.
Stay Safe Online
Taking a few steps in online safety can protect you and your family from a world of trouble. Keep your family safe by being informed and getting everyone involved in online safety. Keeping up to date with the latest in internet protection will decrease your chances of being preyed on by hackers, predators and cybercriminals.
Erin Palmer is a writer and editor for Bisk Education. She works with Villanova University’s information assurance training program. Villanova also offers other cyber security training courses 100% online. KnowledgeWave Training provides traditional classroom training and online on-demand training via Log on to Learn.