Submitted by Nicky Elkins
For most people, the internet is used to connect with friends, look at funny pictures, or to do some online shopping. However, what people don’t expect to happen is to have their identity stolen. In the digital age, it is very easy for a hacker or someone to steal valuable information from you. Keeping your information secure while you are online is very important, and can prevent having your identity stolen. There are a few things you can do to help prevent someone from seeing your information and taking you for a ride.
Having a unique password is important, but you should also have multiple passwords for multiple online accounts. This helps keep your information safer than if you just had one password. If you had multiple passwords and someone did hack into one of your accounts, you would only need to change one password for one account. However, if you had the same password for every website and account, you would then need to go in and change every account password. When you create a password, try to think of something that is unique to you and that you will remember. Most websites have password requirements to help ensure you have a unique password. These requirements may be anything from how many characters you can have to what numbers or symbols you use. If you have a lot of accounts and need a way to keep track of your passwords, you can use a password manager like LastPass.
Not only are the ads on the side of webpages annoying sometimes, they can also be harmful to your computer and information. These ads aren’t always on webpages; they can also be in emails or social media. Any adds that claim you are a “winner”, or that you could “enter to win” normally have you fill out a form with your personal information in order to “collect your prize”. However, when you fill out this information, you have actually entered in a scam to win having your identity stolen. Other ads may not have you fill anything out, but may instead download malware or a virus onto your computer. Once these have been installed on your computer, it can be hard to get rid of it all.
Your information could be targeted through your email. Make sure to set your email to separate spam messages from your regular mail. Having your spam setting set up to block suspicious emails can help reduce the chance of falling victim to different email scams and phishing scams. If you do get an email from someone you don’t know, it is best to not open it, mark it as spam, and delete it. Some scammers are tricky and will send you an email that looks like it came from your bank, Twitter, or even Facebook. These emails normally ask you to verify your account, or tell you that something is wrong with your account and you can dispute or report a problem by clicking a link below and filling out the information. These forms have the same concept as those used by “enter to win” scams; you fill out your information and give everything to the scammer. If you get an email but are unsure, you can check the “from” address to tell if it is real or not. If it is from Facebook, it should be from a Facebook.com account, not a Facemail.com account. Another thing you can check is the link in the email. You can hover over them without clicking and see the URL that it points to. If the URL doesn’t take you to the official login, support page, or the official page it claims to be going to, do not click on it. Scammers try to fool you by putting in links to fake login pages like usatwitter.com/login instead of twitter.com/login. If you are still unsure if it is real or not, and are concerned about your information, you can call the company or file a report with their support department.
Part of keeping your information safe is also keeping it backed up. You should be backing up your computer files regularly. A lot of people keep just about everything on their computers, such as family photos, business reports, and other important documents. If you do end up getting a virus and it shuts down your computer, it can be difficult to restore your computer back to how it was before the virus. Sometimes the damage is irreversible and you end up having to buy a new laptop completely. By backing up your files regularly ensures that no matter what happens to your computer, you don’t lose valuable files and information. You can invest in Backup Software or an external hard drive to store your information. Most backup software stores your information to a server allowing you to access the information by logging in. Using an external hard drive to back up your computer lets you carry it with you and it is easy to share and transfer files to a new computer if you need to.
Majority of computers come with anti-virus protection. Having the proper security on your computer will help you protect your personal information. Security systems and anti-virus software will do several scans and give you reports as to how many problems, viruses, potential viruses, and malware you have on your computer and then fix the problem. Some software will even inform you when a site you are about to go to contains malicious and harmful contents. It is easy to get a laptop that already has virus protection on it, or you can easily find affordable software that will keep you safe while browsing.
If you travel a lot, or work on a computer that isn’t in your home, more than likely when you are connected to the internet it is through a WiFi hot-spot. When you are connected to the internet with this type of connection, avoid sharing your personal information. Free WiFi or community hot-spots, while convenient, aren’t as secure as your own personal internet connection. If you are using this type of connection and you need to login to a personal account or need to use your information, you can check the URL to see if it is a secure site. Most banking sites will show you that it is a secure site by displaying padlock icon in the address bar. You can also look at the URL address to double check. If the URL starts with “http://” then you do not have a secure connection. However, if it starts with “https://” then you are on a secure connection since the “s” stands for secure.
Nicky Elkins is a freelance writer for http://www.bbgeeks.com/BBGeeks.com and is from Pensacola, Florida. She attended the University of West Florida and earned her Graduate degree in Creative Writing. Nicky now uses her gift for writing and her love of all things technology to help others enjoy and understand consumer electronics, social media, and the coolest new gadgets.