Internet safety – actually, our lack of safety and our frightening vulnerability – was the topic of discussion in my last blog post. (Click here to read what I learned from an FBI class.) In this blog post, we’ll discuss how you can protect yourself as much as possible.
Internet safety tips:
Do not delay when Windows or Apple has an update for your computer.
The updates are sent when vulnerabilities are found. Even though it’s a pain in the patootie to wait for your computer to download and restart, it’s important that you let it so that you get the patches that you need. If “you’re a Mac,” you’re a little safer than PC owners simply because thieves follow the market share of computers, but you’re not 100% immune.
If you don’t have Windows 10, you’re even more screwed.
There are so many vulnerabilities on the older operating systems. If you have Vista or XP, you’re a thief’s dream. You are so vulnerable that you may as well just leave your computer outside and let everyone have at it. I know it stinks, but you need to fork out some cash and upgrade your system.
Antivirus programs can help.
They’re better than using nothing, but they’re not 100% certain. The FBI cannot endorse a specific program, so I couldn’t get that type of recommendation out of them. But something is better than nothing. Be sure to look for one that goes beyond just viruses. You want protection from malware and spyware. Remember, you just need to be less vulnerable than the next guy or gal.
Make your system as complex as possible.
Make sure your personal internet is on WPA2. Use complex passwords. Use different passwords for different accounts (not just the same one for everything). Change your passwords now and then. You can use a password system like RoboForm or DashLane or LastPass to help you keep track.
Make sure no one has access to your computer.
As I mentioned in my previous post, thieves can access your information by slipping a USB into one of your ports. If you work in an office in which other people have access to or walk by your computer, position your device in a way that blocks the ports or at least makes it more difficult for someone to swoop in quickly. Once again, the name of the game is to be a little more difficult to breach than the next person. And what about at Starbucks? Have you ever asked a stranger to watch your stuff while you run to the restroom? Hmmmm.
Don’t be in a hurry to click.
Before clicking on any link, hover over the link with your mouse/cursor. The website that the link will go to should appear somewhere on your screen. In the Chrome browser, the web address appears in the bottom left corner. In other browsers, it can appear on the bottom right or directly over where you’re hovering. The point is, pause before clicking. Make sure you’re about to be taken to a legitimate website. For example, if you want to click on a link that you think is for Bank of America, it should look like this:
bofa.com or bankofamerica.com
If you see something like:
Bank-of-America.com (not their web address) or bankofamerica.website.com (the part before the .com is the domain name, and that is not B of A’s domain)
…don’t click on it. Instead, open up a new browser window and go directly to the website you want to reach to find out if what’s being requested of you is legitimate.
Keep your public information on social media accounts to a minimum.
The agent did a search on Facebook for “people who work for USAA in San Antonio.” Photos of USAA employees appeared on the screen. The thief now knows their names and what they look like. Can anyone say “fake employee badges” or “stalker”? Scary. They didn’t talk about this part, but I learned this awhile back: when you post on social media profiles your family members’ names and your birthdate and your home town and your current town, you have just given hackers most of what they need to steal your identity.
Turn off wifi on your phone.
I know, I know. I don’t want to use my data plan either. But I’d rather whittle down my data allowance than have some random hacker steal all the info on my phone because my device automatically found his/her evil router just by walking in close proximity. Wait until you carefully choose a wifi source for your phone before turning on that function.
Pretty frightening, right?
You don’t have to go 19th century. But you do need to be careful and not be so free with posting your information or clicking willy nilly, as well as being mindful about where and when you use your devices.
Internet safety is extremely important, so be sure to take steps today to protect yourself.