Keeping You and Your Information Safe Online
- Invest in Internet security software. There are several reliable companies that offer tools that can help you stay safe online, including scanning website and emails, firewalls that assist in blocking pop-up ads or malicious spyware, and more. McAfee, Norton and Kaspersky are consistently rated as Top 10 security software products.
- Keep the majority of your personal details private. Don't include your home phone number or street address in profiles for your online accounts, unless you are certain that they are secure sites. You may also want to consider only using your first name and the first initial in your last name (example: Laura F.) as opposed to putting your name in full for social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. If you do decide to list your personal details on social sites, you may want to consider making your account private instead of public, in order to control who has access to your personal information.
- Set up a separate email and profile if you are going to be active in chat rooms and forums, that is separate from your primary account. Not only does it reduce the amount of junk mail you may have to sort through in your regular email account, it also provides a layer of security from other chat room and forum posters. This may be an important step to consider if you often engage in heated debates or make controversial posts.
- Google yourself. It's a good idea to search on a regular basis, using Google, Bing, Yahoo or any of the other well-known search engines. Random searches by name or UserID can alert you to possible information about yourself that you may not know is out there.
- If you are a blogger or have a web page that can potential receive thousands of inquiries, consider posting your contact information as a digital image (.jpg is the default format for this), or spelling out your email address "long form" (example: john [dot]brown [at] gmail [dot]com, instead of firstname.lastname@example.org). Both examples provide some security from auto-bots that are used to randomly collect email addresses from websites.
- While it's tempting for many to answer the popular question "What are you doing..?", it's not a good idea to post answers that establish your daily routine. Posting details like "I'm off to YogaJunction in YourCity for the 10:30 class" makes real-life stalking much easier by providing the date, time and location of your whereabouts.
Tips & Warnings
- Educate all family members as to the importance of online safety.
- Parents: Routinely check your child's online activity.
- If you find details that you would prefer not be public online, you may be able to (1) remove the content yourself,(2) request the website owner to remove, or (3) in some cases, you can contact the hosting company, Google, etc. to issue a complaint.