How to Maintain Internet Security & Privacy
Your privacy on the Internet depends on your ability to control both the amount of personal information that you provide and who has access to that information. To read about how your information gets on the Internet and how it is used.
Abijita Foundation will teach you how to minimize your online footprint by using encrypted services and hiding your online activity from your Internet Service Providers and ad companies alike. While you can never guarantee privacy on the Internet, taking steps to avoid using compromised services or sites will significantly cut down on the number of people and companies who can review your web usage.
Think before you share personal information
Privacy policies should clearly explain what data the website gathers about you, how it is used, shared, and secured, and how you can edit or delete it. (For example, look at the bottom of this and every page on Microsoft.com.) No privacy statement? Take your business elsewhere.
Do not share more than you need to
- Do not post anything online that you would not want made public.
- Minimize details that identify you or your whereabouts.
- Keep your account numbers, user names, and passwords secret.
Only share your primary email address or Instant Message (IM) name with people who you know or with reputable organizations. Avoid listing your address or name on Internet directories and job-posting sites.
Enter only required information—often marked with an asterisk (*)—on registration and other forms.
Choose how private you want your profile or blog to be
Modify Internet Explorer or website settings or options to manage who can see your online profile or photos, how people can search for you, who can make comments on what you post, and how to block unwanted access by others.
Monitor what others post
Search for your name on the Internet using at least two search engines. Search for text and images. If you find sensitive information on a website about yourself, look for contact information on the website and send a request to have your information removed.
Regularly review what others write about you on blogs and social networking websites. Ask friends not to post photos of you or your family without your permission. If you feel uncomfortable with material such as information or photos that are posted on others’ websites, ask for it to be removed.
Guard your information
Protect your computer
You can greatly reduce your risk of online identity theft by taking these three steps to protect your computer:
- Use an Internet firewall.
Note Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and Service Pack 3 have a firewall already built in and automatically turned on.
- Get security updates automatically.
Note Microsoft Update will also update your Microsoft Office programs.
Subscribe to antivirus software and keep it current. Microsoft Security Essentials is a free download for Windows 7 and Windows Vista. If you run Windows 8 or Windows RT, you don’t need Microsoft Security Essentials. For more information, see Help protect your PC with Microsoft Security Essentials.
Create strong passwords
Strong passwords are at least 14 characters long and include a combination of letters (both upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols. They are easy for you to remember but difficult for others to guess.
- Don’t share your passwords with friends.
Avoid using the same password everywhere. If someone steals it, all the information that password protects is at risk.
Save sensitive business for your home computer
Avoid paying bills, banking, and shopping on a public computer, or on any device (such as a laptop or mobile phone) over a public wireless network.
Tip Internet Explorer can help erase your tracks on a public computer, leaving no trace of specific activity. For more information, see InPrivate browsing.
Protect yourself from fraud
Spot the signs of a scam
Watch for deals that sound too good to be true, phony job ads, notices that you have won a lottery, or requests to help a distant stranger transfer funds. Other clues include urgent messages (“Your account will be closed!”), misspellings, and grammatical errors.
- Think before you click to visit a website or call a number in a suspicious email or phone message—both could be phony.
Be cautious with links to video clips and games, or open photos, songs, or other files—even if you know the sender. Check with the sender first.
Look for signs that a web page is safe
Before you enter sensitive data, check for evidence that:
The site uses encryption, a security measure that scrambles data as it crosses the Internet. Good indicators that a site is encrypted include a web address with https (“s” stands for secure) and a closed padlock beside it. (The lock might also be in the lower-right corner of the window.)
You are at the correct site—for example, at your bank’s website, not a phony website. If you are using Internet Explorer, one sign of trustworthiness is a green address bar like the one above.
Use a phishing filter
Find a filter that warns you of suspicious websites and blocks visits to reported phishing sites. For example, try the SmartScreen Filter included in Internet Explorer.
Help detect potential fraud
In the United States, you are entitled to one free credit report every year from each of the three major U.S. credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Get them by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
The Internet can be a dangerous place these days.
Malicious software apps (“malware”), viruses, and phishing scams are growing in number and sophistication. Data breaches and identity theft are becoming commonplace. Even among “reputable” sites, there are ever-multiplying ways that your personal data is being tracked, collected, and stored. The use of your personal data, and the manner in which it is saved and secured can create real risks to your privacy and even to your finances.
Here are seven ways you can protect your personal information and privacy online
You’re probably already doing these things suggested by organizations like the National Cybersecurity Alliance, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded because they are so important:
If In Doubt, Throw It Out
Since malware and phishing scams are getting more sophisticated, try not to open emails that look suspicious or unusual, especially if they relate to your email, social media, financial services, or utility accounts. Delete these messages.
This goes double for links and attachments in emails related to these kinds of accounts or services — don’t click them unless you are absolutely sure of the source. If you get an email about an issue or past due balance or a refund, rather than click on a link, go to the provider’s website directly and log in to your account there, or call the provider.
Keep your computer’s operating system, browser, and security software up to date. Turn on automatic updates for these wherever possible.
Think Before You Act
Be especially wary and vigilant if an offer demands you act immediately, sounds too good to be true, or asks for personal information.
Updating privacy settings on websites and services—particularly on social media and search sites such as Facebook, Google, and Yahoo—is a good place to start protecting yourself. This can usually be done under a “settings” menu option. Since most sites default to information being shared publicly, changing settings will help you make sure your personal information is seen by fewer people. Ideally you should choose to share information only with people you know.
Why is this important? “Oversharing” of social media information leads to numerous risks, including home break-ins by criminals who see that you are on vacation. Also, limited sharing and/or deleting tags on photos and editing your Timeline can help remove potentially embarrassing material from being seen by people who don’t know you well, including colleagues at work, acquaintances, distant family members, or potential employers.
Blocking third party cookies on your browser is another good way to maintain some anonymity while online. Blocking cookies makes it so websites will have a harder time tracking the last time you visited, what your username is, and whether or not you should be signed in automatically. While blocking cookies can be less convenient in some cases, the increase in privacy is worth the tradeoff.
Many websites now are giving the option to link accounts. Google, for example, allows you to link all your different Gmail accounts in a browser. Many sites are now giving you the option to use your Google login to access their site. While convenient, linking accounts can create more risk. If one of your accounts is compromised, all the linked accounts will also automatically be at risk. So unlinking accounts is a good way to help protect information.
Secure Connections, Firewalls and Antivirus Services
Always use a secure wireless connection (and stop using public Wi-Fi networks). If you don’t have a strong password on your home Wi-Fi network, it’s time to create one. Use a firewall: protecting your computer from unwanted network traffic is important. The good news is that modern OS releases generally contain built-in firewalls. Make sure they are turned on and you have set security settings.
Your username and password combinations remain critically important for maintaining security online. The problem is that with every website needing a password, people tend to get predictable or lazy by creating simple passwords or using the same passwords over and over again on different websites. Use passwords of eight characters or more with mixed types of characters. But even passwords with simple substitutions like “dr4mat1c” can be vulnerable to attackers’ increasingly sophisticated technology, and random combinations like “j%7K&yPx$” can be difficult to remember.
One way to create more secure passwords that are easy to recall is to try passphrases — short words with spaces or other characters separating them. It’s best to use random words rather than common phrases. For example, “cakes years birthday” or “smiles_light_skip?”.
You should delete cookies regularly (in Chrome, for example, go to the Chrome menu and then click Clear Browsing Data.) You should also log out of social media websites like Facebook, and even your Google account when not using them (and don’t keep them open in tabs on your browser). If you want to take the next step in getting better privacy, try using a browser such as Tor that routes your IP through a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A virtual private network routes all of your data through a proxy server so your IP address and in many cases your user data is protected.