How Can I Stay Safe Online and Protect My Identity ?
We love technology. It makes our lives easier, and it makes it easier to manage the various necessities. Can you imagine a world without online banking? I sure wouldn’t want to go back to writing and mailing checks each month. But in making information more attainable to us, it also makes it more available to the bad guys. Identity theft is a major problem affecting over 15 million Americans each year and costing financial losses exceeding $50 billion!*
So without going completely off-the-grid, how to we protect ourselves while still enjoying the best technology has to offer? There are a number of ways to protect yourself online and they all center on being careful, attentive, and thorough in your online dealings.
Double-check your address bar, and don’t always trust Google to take you to the correct site. For example, type in “visa.com” and make sure you are taken to https://visa.com in your address bar. When doing any sort of online transaction, be sure you are using “https” which is a secure session that hides your information from hackers.
Always, always, always hesitate if you aren’t sure of something. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Banner ads that say you can win a free $25 gift card to your favorite restaurant are more concerned with stealing your private information. While you MAY get your gift card, it will be in exchange for selling your email address and personal information so that you are constantly bombarded with more ads.
Look for Privacy options whenever possible. If you are using a modern browser like Chrome or Firefox, there are built in tools to disable common tracking, cookies, history, and more. Facebook and other websites often allow you to address privacy concerns as well. Be sure to look under “Settings” or “Account Options” on most sites to find what is available to you.
Keep your browser updated to ensure you have the latest enhancements and features available to protect you. Running any out-of-date software on your computer opens you up to vulnerabilities. We are seeing this plague users of Windows XP now that Microsoft has ceased support for that operating system.
Use secure passwords that differ per site! We’re always nagging you about this, but it is the most surefire way to protect yourself. See our post here on coming up with awesome passwords.
Check your emails with an inquisitive eye. Check the sender and the email and make sure they match exactly. Spammers might be able to spoof one or the other and make an email seem to come from someone else, but they will commonly mess up one. Before clicking any links, hover over it first to see what address it is going to take you to. Be sure that the website is http://visa.com and not a clever http://visa.com.hackersite.com or eaisertips.blogspot.com
Another good idea is to separate computers for different tasks, for example perhaps you dedicate your laptop to online banking, and use your tablet for general web surfing, and then use your phone for email.
Stay vigilant and you will find that it is much easier to protect yourself. Always be inquisitive and cautious before entering information onto a website. Be sure to check Privacy Policies before registering to new websites, and always keep your computer updated with the latest software and security updates. Be sure that you have antivirus protection, as that is one of the first steps to knowing when your computer has been compromised.