Protecting Yourself Online

The internet connects people, providing amazing opportunities for you to connect with family, friends, businesses, and much more, but all of this connectivity comes with inherent risks too. As much as you want to share things with the right people, you need to protect yourself from sharing things with the wrong people.

There are many steps you can take toward protecting yourself while still enjoying online activities:

  • Use anti-virus / anti-spyware software.
  • Keep your internet browser up to date. Software updates frequently include security fixes, so the longer you take to update your software, the longer you are vulnerable to known threats. Enabling automatic updates can make this process simpler.
  • Take passwords seriously. You keep important things like bank information or credit card numbers in accounts with passwords. So follow all of those things you hear: choose a mix of letters and special characters, resist making it easy to guess, and don’t use the same password for every online service.
  • Those security questions you have to answer? Use fake information. Information like your mother’s maiden name is relatively easy to find out, so rather than using the real thing and risking someone resetting your password, choose a fake answer instead.
  • If you’re accessing the internet on a public network, take extra care. Make sure your firewall is running. Make sure your e-mail program is using a secure connection. Visit secure sites (with https / a padlock icon) when possible.
  • Download cautiously. A file may not be what it seems, so only download files from trusted sources and with known file types.
  • If you upload photos to a social network, disable the automatic location feature. Location data can pinpoint users with unsettling accuracy.

Also, when you’re creating a profile on a social network or other website, don’t share these pieces of information:

  • Home address
  • Personal phone number
  • Birthdate or place of birth
  • Mother’s maiden name

These pieces of information can be a great starting place for an identity thief, so making them public is risky. Providing false information for these fields can help reduce the risk considerably.

By following these steps, you can give yourself a fighting chance against would-be thieves.