Tips For Safe Internet Use

The Internet is an amazing resource; you probably use every day. But you need to be aware of the risks that you might face when you are online. Below are some tips on how to use the Internet safely:

  • Update your software

Updates to your software often include “patches” that address any vulnerabilities hackers have exposed in it. Most software will automatically send you a message when an update is available, so it’s a good idea to agree to be notified of them. Only download software upgrades from websites you trust. Stay away from any that are sent via a link in an email message, they are often viruses.

For Windows users, who are more vulnerable to hackers than Apple’s, mainly because hackers like the bigger numbers of PC users, there are ways to keep your software updated. A free software program, called Secunia Personal Software Inspector. It will delete programs that are outdated and subject to hackers.

  • Make passwords effective

When you create a password, make sure it’s a strong one that will be all but impossible for a hacker to crack to get to your personal information. First, don’t use the same password for different sites. Use the site’s recommended combinations of numbers and letters, upper and lower case. And answer security questions that aren’t easily answered. Many sites will rate the strength of your password. Get the strongest rating possible.

  • Delete spam

You will receive at some point harmless emails that solicit business, and malicious ones trying to get your personal information, such as bank account numbers. The key is to use a spam filter in your email program.  But if you get an email that looks even slightly suspicious from unknown persons, don’t open it, just delete it. Sometimes the return address looks like it could be from someone you know, but scammers can “spoof” return addresses, so check with the senders before you open the message.

Also avoid clicking on links embedded in email messages. This is a technique called “phishing” in which scammers set up a seemingly trustworthy banking site, for instance, in an attempt to get passwords to your account numbers. You’ll know if it’s a phishing scam if you type in an incorrect password and it accepts it.

Also avoid pitches to install malware to detect viruses, since they can compromise your computer and get personal information.

  • Careful file-sharing

Only share files with parties you trust to avoid mistakenly downloading a virus, malware, spyware or helping a data security breach. Many email programs scan files for you and will alert you to a suspicious file. Meanwhile, don’t download free screensavers, wallpaper, games or toolbars, unless they come from a reputable site. And don’t open hacker sites, sexually explicit sites, or those known for piracy, since they’re known for having malware.

  • Turn off your computer

This will reduce the chance a malicious remote computer will take over your computer when you’re not using it.

  • Back up your data

To keep it simple, back up your important data on encrypted USB flash drives, external hard drives or disc imaging software programs. Keep your backup media in a secured location. And encrypt any sensitive information files on your computer or laptop, so that if your machine is stolen, the thief can’t get any private information out of it.

  • Smart Wi-Fi usage

To keep someone from driving by and getting your computer information via you home wireless network, it should be at minimum secured with WPA2 encryption. And because most public Wi-Fi hotspots are unsecured, never conduct secure transactions while using them. You can also set up a “virtual private network” which encrypts your Wi-Fi connection. Also when using email, you can often add an “s” after “http” on the address to the mail website to get encrypted login information and messages.

Keep your computer from automatically connecting to the nearest available Wi-Fi access point, since it could get a connection to a hacker’s computer.

Disable file sharing on your computer settings to keep hackers from accessing your files.

Install a firewall on your computer and keep it enabled while using Wi-Fi.

Keep your computer software updated to plug any security holes.

  • General online privacy tips

Use a different email provider than one provided by your search engine by using, for instance, Yahoo for email and Google for search. That limits the amount of information collected by any one site. You can also clear your browser’s cookies, or stored searches, before new searches to keep your browsing unconnected to your email address.

Disable automatic sign-ins.

Heed e-mail system messages that block images with URLs embedded in them. They give you the message that portions of the email have not been downloaded. The reason is that they likely contain Web bugs, so going forward and downloading them anyway is not advisable.

If you want to opt out of tracking cookies that record your search behavior, visit

Be fully aware of the pros and cons of cloud computing, which provides offsite program applications and data storage instead of those tasks being handled by a person’s computer. Read the provider’s privacy policy and terms of service of the host company to know your rights.


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