Being Safe Online

A lot of people these days have two lives: the one that they live using their body and a second one that only exists online. Facebook alone has more than 800 million accounts, which is over twice the population of the United States. However, not all of these accounts are owned by people who are looking out for you, much like in the physical world. There’s no need to worry, though. It’s very unlikely that you will be the subject of a specifically targeted attack, but there are some steps that you should take so that you won’t ever be tricked by some booby-trap set for innocent wanderers on the internet. The first and most important rule that you should always follow is simple: don’t ever assume something is secured unless you’ve been assured by a reliable source. With that in mind, here are some tips for each area that needs security.

Email:

Probably everyone has fallen for a fake email at some point in their life. Even us Nerds have been duped by a particularly convincing email – hackers can send emails from the accounts of our friends make it seem as if they are recommending a virus-infected link. If you get an unsolicited email from someone that you would normally trust, but seems a little out of place, it doesn’t hurt to double-check with them by emailing back or texting just to make sure that the content is legitimate.

When sending an email to a lot of people who don’t all know each other, make sure to put yourself in the TO: field, and then put all of the other addresses in the “BCC” field, which stands for “Blind Carbon Copy.” This will ensure that the email addresses don’t get passed on to others. Just like you shouldn’t share others’ physical addresses with strangers, you should make sure that you don’t accidentally spread email addresses around. Make sure to pass this tip on to all your friends!

Web browsing:

One good tip to always keep in mind when using the internet is that once entered online, data is never truly destroyed. Be careful with any pictures you upload – a good tip to keep in mind is that if you wouldn’t want your kids to stumble across it, you don’t want to put it online. And if you do post something sensitive to a site that you trust, make a note of it so that if it ever comes up, you know where it came from.

When you do enter information like credit cards online, always look up at the address bar before proceeding. Instead of the normal “Http” before the address, it should say “Https.” This means that the connection is secured. While you may not actually need the security, it assures you that the site is legitimate and that the information can’t be passed on without your express permission.

Your information is tracked on websites that you visit via files called cookies. While they are helpful for day-to-day activities, you should delete them regularly so that if you ever succumb to malware, it can’t access all your sensitive information.

Passwords:

While it may be much simpler to have one password that you use across every site, this can compromise every account you use. If malicious software is able to get a hold of one of your passwords, the hacker can gain access to all your information, including your banking account. It is best to use a different password for every site, but if you can’t keep track of all of them, use different ones for your financial information than the ones you use for social networks and the like.

If you share a computer with other people, you shouldn’t keep your passwords stored there. Even if you trust the other users, you don’t want that information to leak out from an accident. And the same goes for writing down passwords – it’s fine to do, but keep them where others can’t see them.

General internet use tips:

You should lock your computer when you leave it if you work in an environment with others – and don’t leave your laptop unattended when you can help it, especially in public environments.

When you’re not using the wireless capabilities on your devices, you should switch off the adapter. This will both save battery and increase your security.

Finally, when you decide to get rid of an electronic device, always make sure to get rid of any data stored on it. Whether selling it or disposing it, you want to make sure that your data doesn’t fall into the hands of someone you don’t know.

We’ve posted a few tips in the past on how to stay safe on a variety of social networking sites. If you’ve missed those, check them out here:

Facebook

Twitter

Google+

LinkedIn

Source: Andrea Eldridge

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