How can I protect myself online?
The internet is an incredible tool that most of us use every day! From manufacturing and travel, to banking and communications, most everything we do is profoundly shaped by the internet and our access to it.
Unfortunately, there is a dark side to online activities, as well. There are individuals and criminal organizations that work, every day, to infiltrate your life and steal your personal information, geo-data, etc. It is critically important that we protect our online identity and personal identification.
The following data points should always be protected:
- Your full name
- Social Security number
- Phone numbers
- Credit card numbers
- Names and information of friends
- Names and information of family
- Photographs (even of your home or pets)
- Your current location (some phones have automatic GPS apps built in that may need to be turned off)
- School information
- Church information
- Vacation information
Safe email protocol:
If you do not recognize the sender of an email, do not open it. Never open an email attachment from someone you do not know. Virus protection software is vital for your computer and should be updated regularly.
Safety for your devices:
Keep your devices secure. Do not let others use your phone unless you are with them. Keep your iPad/laptop powered down, unless using it. Keep your privacy settings on. Hackers and companies alike, would love to know more about you and utilize this information for THEIR benefit – not yours.
Download with care.
Cybercriminals can easily trick you into downloading malware by offering apps and programs that will put your online safety at risk. Always be aware of the source of a program or app.
Millions of Americans shop online every day. You will need to provide some sort of payment information. Only shop with sites that provide secure transactions. You can identify secure online sites by addresses that start with https:// rather than http://. The “s” denotes that the site is secure. You may also look for an icon to the left of https:// that looks like a padlock. This also indicates the site is secure.
Create strong passwords.
Passwords are possibly the biggest online vulnerability. We tend to create passwords that are easy for us to remember. The strongest passwords have at least 8 characters – mixing letters (upper and lower case), numbers and special characters. If you want an incredibly strong password, consider a password with at least 12 characters.
Who are you meeting online?
Many people you interact with online are not at all who they claim to be. Use the same common sense approach to your online social life as you are to your in-person social life.
What are you posting?
Be very careful with everything you post. Colleges, corporate recruiters, sports recruiters, etc. realize the true value of researching applicants. Your online presence will be perceived to reflect who you are. Selfies, posts and comments begin to show the person you truly are. Everything you put on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. is there forever! You can never truly delete something once you have sent it.
***Laws protect teenagers under the age of 18. Severe and/or permanent damage can be done to your reputation or legal record by possessing or sending the wrong picture or text.