Friday, October 10, 2014

How to stay safe on the internet

Yesterday’s blog was entitled "Is anyone really safe on the internet?" After reading some of the startling statistics presented there I’m sure that many readers are wondering exactly what they need to do in order to avoid becoming a victim themselves. Although it is impossible to safeguard against every conceivable threat posed by the internet today, it is possible to avoid 99% of the problems that most people will encounter at one time or another. Here are some common sense but often overlooked safety rules that we should follow at all times when online.

Check for viruses routinely on all of your computers. There are plenty of good programs available today to keep the “hackers” at bay and not using one of them is asking for problems.

Don’t use “weak” passwords. Believe it or not there are still those people that commonly use passwords such as “111111” or “123456”. Create passwords that are difficult to guess at. It’s best to use a combination of letters and numbers and not to use the same password for multiple sites.

Keep in mind that social sites are not always friendly. If you read yesterday’s blog you would know that at one time Facebook had deleted 90,000 users because they were registered sex offenders. Don’t forget, if you don’t know someone in the “real world” than you don’t know them at all. They are not your “friend”; they are a stranger and should be treated as such. This is especially true if you have children that like to use the social networking sites. The rule is simple; if you don’t know them, don’t talk to them. It should also go without saying that children should never be allowed on the internet unless they are being supervised by an adult.

While you’re at it, now is the perfect time to review the privacy settings on ALL of the social sites that you use. Most people allow anyone to view their posts and this is a very dangerous situation. Most of us don’t tell people that we don’t know our personal business and we certainly don’t show them pictures of our children! But that’s exactly what you are doing of you don’t limit the visibility of your social web pages.

Business is business, personal is personal. Due to the fact that so many of us use the internet for marketing and advertising purposes we are all too willing to make our profile as detailed as possible. While we do need to provide contact information so that people can contact us they do not need to know our age, home phone number or personal address. Provide only what information is necessary in your profile and nothing more.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Is it really a good idea to post pictures of our little ones for the entire world to see? Remember, if people know that you are a realtor in “Smith County, America” and are able to see those great family photos from last Christmas than they know too much. Think of it like a jigsaw puzzle. They know WHERE you live, they know WHAT you do and they know WHAT YOUR CHILDREN LOOK LIKE. Do I need to say anything else?

Be careful what you post. I saw a friend who once posted something seemingly quite innocent on Facebook. It was a simple comment such as “At the mall with the kids and having a ball!” Along with it was a picture of the kiddies eating ice cream. The name of the store was part of the picture as well. I actually shuttered when I read it. Now everyone knows exactly where they are, what they are doing and what they look like. That’s an “invitation” that should never have been sent.

Respect the information of others. Never post pictures or any other information about someone else without first obtaining their permission. Even though a friend or colleague has shared something with you it doesn’t necessarily mean that they want others to see it. Some of us are more private than others and we need to respect that.

Be careful what you say about others. NEVER say anything derogatory about anyone else on the internet. This is a quick way to start trouble and gossip is never a good thing. If you have a problem with someone, keep it out of the public domain.

Click with care. One sure way to download a virus (or worse) is to willingly go to the wrong site. Have you ever received an email that says something such as “Great job last week!” or “We need to talk, it’s urgent”? These are great ways to rouse your curiosity and cause you to open an email or click on a link because you think you know the person that sent it. Another clever trick is to receive an email or link from someone that you do know but the message seems out of character for them. If 90 year old Aunt Minnie sends you an email entitled “Let’s party this weekend!” than there is a good chance that her email account has been hacked. This is another clever way that you can be tricked into downloading something that you don’t want on your computer or being led to a website that you may not want to see.

Talk with your children. It’s important that your children understand what they can and cannot do online. Set down the rules with them and be sure that they never talk to anyone that they don’t already know in the real world. Limit what sites they are allowed to visit and share the appropriate safety rules on this page with them. Most importantly, insist that they inform you of anything that happens to them online that may seem strange or unusual. If you don’t take an active role in protecting your children from online predators, who will?

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