Top 10 Ways to Protect Your Personal Information Online

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Keeping data safe

There are many resources on the Internet, lots of ways to connect with friends and social contacts, and every day there seems to be something new online to explore. Unfortunately, the criminals have also discovered the value of the online world. They directly target those who do not take a few very simple steps to protect their privacy. Here are 10 ways to safeguard your information from the most common threats and vulnerabilities that put you, your family and your office at risk:

Your Computer

1. Keep up-to-date your operating system, any programs you have installed, and most importantly, your antivirus software.  Turn on the auto‐update feature, and let your computer update itself automatically. Be sure to reboot if it asks you to.

2. Uninstall any software you do not use. Outdated programs often have security problems, and if you are not going to use an application anymore, why not free up the space on your hard drive while at the same time making your computer more secure.

3. Make sure your screen‐saver requires a password to reactivate. Too often (particularly in shared environments with roommates or officemates) a creative friend might send embarrassing emails from your computer or accidentally download malicious software.

4. If you have a laptop, be sure the built‐in disk encryption feature is running. This will protect your laptop if it is lost or stolen. Also, invest in a cable lock so that your laptop is physically secured while you are on a break or temporarily away from the computer. Laptops can be stolen in just a few seconds.

Your Websites

5. Be careful with what you post on social networking sites about yourself, your friends, family and colleagues, and your job. Remember: Once on the Internet, always on the Internet, especially photographs.

6. Use website passwords that are complex but easy for you to remember. If possible, use a “passphrase” rather than a “password.”   Data thieves know what the commonly used passwords are, so stay away from easy ones like “123456” or “Password1.” In addition, use different user IDs and passwords for different websites. That way if the bad guys compromise a password for one website, your other accounts will not be not compromised as well.

7. Pay close attention to where you are online. Many phishing sites appear to be legitimate, but if you look closely at the address bar you will see that you are not really at your bank or site that you thought you were going to. Think twice before entering any personal information at a new website. Does this company really need to know the things it is asking for? 

Your Information

8. Be careful with peer‐to‐peer or file‐sharing programs. They should never be used on office computers, and if you have them at home, pay close attention to which parts of your hard drive are sharing with others. Under no circumstances should you put work information on your personal computer, especially if you use P2P software at home to share files with your friends.

9. When you “reply to all” in emails, check each of the email addresses to make sure you know where your email is going.  Also, BE VERY CAREFUL if you reply to a posting from a listserver or online group. Your reply may go to the entire group rather than just the person you thought you were responding to.

10. Know whom to call or contact if you think you have become a victim of online crime. Events happen fast online, and you often do not have much time to call for help before it is too late. In addition, keep a backup copy of all personal information (passwords, credit card numbers, bank account information, emergency phone numbers, etc.) on a physical piece of paper that is locked in a fireproof container.

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