A partial list of Internet security tips

Protect your account and password
Many systems require you to register before you can use them. For this, you need an account and password. The account must be unique at the site. You should never use your social security number, credit card number, phone number or other personal identifying number as your account or password. Your account name can be your own name or a variation. If your name is "Mark Smith", you may find that "Marksmith", "Smithmark" or "Msmith" have already been taken. You may be able to get an account called "MarkTSmith" but this may not be possible either. Whatever you pick as your account name, you will have to remember it for subsequent visits to the site.

Your password must also be protected. You already know not to make it your social security number or other significant number. Never write down your passwords. By far, the most security breaches have been a result of theft of written accounts and passwords. This happens to users of all systems. In fact, the more secure the system, the more likely users write down their account and passwords. Anything written can be compromised.

A much better password protection method is transformation. This is the process that allows you to establish your own simple rules that change ordinary words into passwords. Perhaps you would like to have a password that includes your favorite color, green. Using a recognizable word is not a good idea as it could be guessed. Instead, transform the word in ways only you know. For example, here is a list of possible transformations:

Word Transformation Result
green substitute numbers gr33n
purple reverse the letters elprup
purple reverse and substitute 3lpr0p

As you can see, the transformed words are much more secure. They are not written in any dictionaries and they are easily remembered. Unfortunately, these examples are less than 8 characters long, the minimum password length on many systems. While many systems do allow 6 or even fewer characters, you should always have 8. Simply adding 2 extra characters to your 6 character password would be fine. The extra characters should always be the same so that you can easily remember them. If your password is the word "purple", transformed as in the last example, a good 8 character password might be "3lpr0pAA". This password is 8 characters, has letters, numbers and upper case letters. It will be accepted by most systems that apply rigorous security protocols. It is easily remembered by the user because it follows their own personal transformation rules and doesn't need to be written down.

 Protect your credit cards
When you want to buy something, you should control the process. Make sure that the organization you are dealing with is legitimate. Would you buy something online from Ham Depot? No. There are a lot of scamming agencies out there. In the beginning, either leave your credit cards in your wallet or only deal with top companies. These are the same companies that you respect in person so you know you can deal with them online safely as well.

 Maintain anti-virus protection
If you use computer applications, you need anti-virus protection. There are good free services for home use. Your Internet provider might have a free package for their customers. Find out and use it. Make sure that the automatic updating features are working. A computer virus is a program that is released by a despicable person intent on causing widespread problems to people. These people are technology terrorists.

 Spam email
Invariably, you are going to get email messages offering you the chance to buy something at an incredible discount. You may also see offers to improve some aspect of your body like a bald spot. Regardless, these types of email messages are junk. There are so many of these emails that they have been called "Spam". This is in reference to the Monty Python skit rather than the canned meat product. Do not purchase anything from a spam email message. While some of the spam is from (fairly) reputable companies, the vast majority is not. You may get what you expect or you may get a bad deal. The risk, however, is not worth it. Just say "NO" to spam. If you want to buy something, you go and buy it. Don't react to a spam offer. It just encourages the companies to continue the practice. There are spam blockers built into most of the email applications. Use these!

Bogus email
Unfortunately, you will sometimes receive messages that are completely bogus. These are designed to extract some information from you such as your email address, social security  or credit card number. Often they will be sent to random email addresses and they will find their way to your computer. If you respond at all, the sender will realize that yours is a valid email address and you will receive much more spam to the address. Even asking them to remove you from their database or clicking "unsubscribe" will verify your address to these companies. Don't do either. Instead, ignore the company, delete the email and establish a filter to delete their future messages automatically. The filter mechanism is different for each email application. With some, you add a filter from a menu and follow prompts. Others let you flag a sender as a spammer and you're done. This is a more advanced topic. You can simply delete and ignore them at first.

If you are a beginner to the technology realm, you are vulnerable to malicious attacks. Follow the advice below to protect yourself. If there is anything that you don't understand, do some research and ask questions. You can use the Internet to educate yourself or you can find a local expert. Perhaps your children or friends know about technology or know someone who does. While there are dangers out there from spam and scammers, there is a lot of excellent information, entertainment and more as well. You shouldn't be afraid of using your computer, despite the dangers. Protect yourself and you should be fine. If you do run into problems, there are lots of professionals ready to help.

Do everything you can to stay safe while using the Internet. Good luck! You can do it!