The Internet gives you access to information, entertainment, and countless products and services. Sounds harmless. But at the same time, it can leave you open to online scams, identity theft, and more.
Here’s a few tips The Smiling Pirate recommends to help keep you safe while on your computer.
1. Protect your personal information. It’s valuable. Especially to someone whose looking to steal it from you. To help minimize your risk of identity theft, never share your personal information with anyone unless you know how it will be used and protected. Never reply to or click on links in any email’s asking for your personal information.
2. Know who you are dealing with. When shopping online, look for a seller’s physical address and working telephone number. Don’t just settle for the company that has the lowest price. Do your research beforehand. It will help ensure a better buying experience online. Look them up on the Better Business Bureau Web site to see if they have any complaints against them. You can also Google the business to see if anyone has left comments about the business that may help you decide whether or not you should buy from this vendor.
3. Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall on your computer to keep your computer free of unwanted attacks. Update them regularly if they are not set to update automatically. Use an anti-virus software that removes or quarantines viruses, and use anti-spyware software that offers real-time protection if available. If real-time protection is not available (on most free versions), be sure to set the software to scan regularly. Ensure that the firewall you are using is configured to block ports that you do not need to keep open. Windows firewall is a good start but there is not much that can configured on it. There are several freeware options available with more configuration options.
4. Be sure not to overlook your Internet browser settings. Browser settings that are configured incorrectly can also leave your computer vulnerable. Select security settings within the browser high enough to reduce your risk of being hacked.
5. Utilize Windows Update. This will ensure that you have the latest software patches and security updates for your system.
6. Protect your passwords. Never share your passwords on the Internet, over email, or on the phone. Try to have different passwords for your various accounts. That way if for some reason one of your passwords is leaked out and an account of yours is compromised, it will not affect your other accounts. There are several freeware applications that are available that can securely manage your passwords. If you don’t feel comfortable using a software application, use an old-fashioned method; pen and paper. Write down your passwords and secure them in a lock box. It’s always a good idea to have a hard copy backup of your passwords.
7. Backup your important files. Don’t put so much faith in a hard drive or USB stick. They do go bad. If you want to keep all of your files on your computer, back them up to another location like an external hard drive. It is good practice to keep a copy of your files off the primary drive in your computer. That way, if your main drive fails (the one with the operating system on it), you won’t lose your files. If you have very important documents that you created on your computer and that is the only place you have them, print out a copy. You can always scan them back in or (God forbid) re-type it. It’s better than losing them all together if your drive crashes.