As privacy and online security become a growing concern, we would like to remind you of a few computer and Internet security tips and best practices to keep you, your family and your personal information safe.
Because much hacking is accomplished while the victim is using the Internet, it is recommended to use one computer for all financial computing and a separate computer for basic Internet browsing, social networking, shopping, etc. This limits the financial information available to hackers on a computer that is not used for personal finances and also limits the Internet usage time in which hackers are able to get information from the computer on which the financial work is done.
It is important not to use a public computer for anything particularly private or sensitive. This becomes more difficult to avoid while traveling, so it’s best to use your own personal device whenever possible. This is also an important conversation to have with children who may be using public computers at the library or summer camp, for instance.
An effective password is the first step towards preventing others from stealing your information. The best passwords are those that have no relation to your home address, phone number, date of birth or any other identifying information of public record.
It also important to have different passwords for different accounts. Many people like to keep a list of all their passwords, but this is cautioned against, especially if kept as a file on your computer. An alternative to this is to select a phrase you can remember and to use the first letters of each word for one password; and the second letters for another password, and so on. A list of these phrases is less likely to be recognized as a password list by a hacker.
In addition to choosing a creative password, some email services offer ways to add extra security to email accounts. Gmail, for instance, offers what is called a 2-step verification process. When a user enters his or her username and password, Gmail asks for a second verification code which will be sent to the user via text or telephone call. This prevents others from hacking into your account and also notifies you when someone is trying to access it.
As social networking becomes more prevalent, using social networking sites as a way to steal people’s personal information is also becoming more prevalent. A few tips to follow:
- Post as little identifying information as possible on any social networking sites. This includes phone numbers, addresses, even pet’s names. People’s profiles are usually the first place hackers look to identify the answers to password security questions. The more personal the information about you on the Internet, the easier it will be for someone to click on the “Forgot Password” option on a website and use information accumulated on the Internet to answer the security questions.
- Be discerning with whom you connect. Hackers often use connection requests to obtain a person’s information. It is especially important to set guidelines for your children to insure that they never accept an invitation from someone they don’t already personally know.
- Social networking sites frequently ask users for access to their address book to check if any of the user’s contacts are using the site or to invite the user’s contacts to join it. Do not give social networking sites access to your address book because this will disseminate all of your friends’ contact information.
- When receiving an email from a social networking site, rather than clicking on the link in the email, enter the web address in the browser yourself. Sometimes a link is fraudulent and you will unknowingly provide a stranger with your username and password.
- Be careful with add-on apps offered by third parties on social networking sites. These are often used to steal data or to attach a virus to the user’s computer.
Depending on how much of an online personality you have, it may be worthwhile to monitor what is on the Internet about you and your family members every few months. This simply requires typing your name into multiple search engines. Also search for personal domain names (i.e., johndoe.com). Remember that potential clients, business partners and employers have access to everything that is written about you on the Internet. This should inform how much and what content you would like available on the Internet.
In summary, simple precautions when it comes to computer and Internet usage can save you a lot of time and money down the road by preventing hacking of your accounts and even identity theft. Please consult with your advisor if you would like more information on any of the above topics.