Where do you shop these days? How do you pay your bills? The answer for more and more people is on the Internet. As people begin to use the web for a wider variety of things, like shopping or checking their bank statement, more of your information is available to those wanting it for illicit purposes.
The fastest growing crime sector in the US is cybercrime. Identity theft, fraud, hacking, spam, harassment, the list goes on and on for what defines a cybercrime. Cyber criminals spread viruses to your computer that wipe out every single file and infiltrate your most sensitive information, all in order to gather your account codes, credit card numbers, passwords, Social Security Number, and other personal info to steal your identity. While the rate of Identity Theft decreased for the first time in years in 2010, you shouldn’t let your guard down when surfing the web. Here are some simple online usage tips to help keep your information safe:
Only download software from sites you trust. Never download software from a pop-up ad unless you’re absolutely sure it’s not a scam. Very similarly, don’t reply to email messages from people or companies you’ve never heard of before. Your mom’s advice to not talk to strangers applies to the Internet as well. If they’re asking for your personal info, then yes, it’s a scam.
Avoid questionable websites, such as file sharing sites or adult content websites. Spyware and viruses can easily be attached to files or videos.
Use antivirus protection. Installing firewalls, antispyware software, and a basic computer security software (that updates regularly) will save you a lot of hassle in the long run.
Use complex passwords for every single account, including shopping accounts, social networking sites, and bank accounts. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! Chester may be a good name for your dog but it’s not a very good password if you want to stay safe. Common password mistakes include using birthdays, your mother’s maiden name, pet’s names, and the last four digits of your social security number. A strong password contains a mix of letters (at least one being capitalized), numbers, and special characters (like, “!” “@” “$” “?”). For your most important accounts, make the most unique password as possible, one that varies from your others.
In today’s world, we can access anything with a click of a mouse. This includes the information you want kept safest. By following these tips, you can help make sure your virtual activities don’t harm your reality.