How to Protect Yourself Online

The Internet: a place to shop, a social network, and vast resource of information. Yet also a place filed with malware and people potentially trying to take advantage of you or steal your information. Like a crowded metropolis, the Internet has many benefits as well as potential harms. Internet users need to be like savvy city-dwellers and avoid dark alleys late at night. Here are some easy ways to ensure you avoid the dangers of the Internet.

Install Security Software: Before connecting to the Internet, make sure that the information on your computer is safe by installing security software and enabling the software already installed in your computer.

Macintosh “Mac” Users (Apple Products using Mac OS X):

Make sure your firewall is active to prevent unwanted information from entering your computer. Click on the apple icon at the top left of your screen. From the drop down menu, select System Preferences. Click on Security and Privacy. Click on the Firewall tab at the top. Make sure the firewall is set to “on.” For more detailed information, please see this tutorial.

Encrypt your hard drive information using FireVault. While you’re in the Security and Privacy section, click on the FireVault tab at the top. Click on the button Turn on FireVault. For more information, read this tutorial.

Prevent Sharing. Back at the System Preferences menu, click on the Sharing icon. Make sure that “on” is not checked for any of the options. For more detailed information, look at this tutorial.

Mac users don’t need additional security software for home computer use.

Windows Users (Applies to Window 7):

Make sure your firewall is on to prevent unwanted information from entering your computer. Click on the start button, then click Control Panel. In the search box, type in “firewall,” then click on Windows Firewall. In the left window, click Turn Firewall On. If prompted for an Administrator password, enter it. For more detailed information, read this tutorial.

Many Windows computer come with security software installed. If your computer does not, install and periodically update security software to protect your computer from viruses and other threats. For more information on specific security software that work with different versions of Windows, read this article.

Modify your Browser Settings: Keep your browsers up to date! Security updates are included in browser software updates. When entering financial information or other personally identifying information such as your social security number, make sure that the web address you are visiting begins with https:// to ensure your information is protected. Regularly delete cookies and your browsing history. Additionally, you can modify your browser settings to prevent data collectors from collecting information on you through cookies, prevent phishing, and protect your computer from malware. Taking these extra steps will help protect your privacy!

Mozilla Firefox: This post explains how to change the relevant settings to ensure your privacy.

Safari: This post explains how to change the relevant settings.

Google Chrome: This post explains how to change the relevant settings to ensure your privacy.

Internet Explorer: Delete cookies by following this tutorial and change your security settings after reading through this post.

Use Pop-up Blockers: Pop-up ads are windows that automatically appear without your permission. Some appear above the window you are currently using; others appear below the window that you are currently using. Your web browser may have settings that prevent these pop-ups.

Mozilla Firefox has a pop-up blocker included.

Safari’s settings can be changed to block pop-ups.

Google Chrome’s settings will block or allow pop-ups.

Internet Explorer’s most recent version automatically blocks pop-ups.

Browse Privately: Private Browsing allows you to browse the Internet without your browser saving any information on the websites that you visited.

Choose to Privately Browse in Mozilla Firefox.

Select Private Browsing in Safari.

Use Incognito Mode in Google Chrome.

Enabling InPrivate Browsing in Internet Explorer.

Create Strong Passwords: Strong passwords will protect your social media accounts, email accounts, and any accounts you use for online shopping. Avoid common passwords like “god,” “love,” “password,” “letmein,” and consecutive numbers like “1234.” Don’t use common dates like your birthday, anniversary, address, or children’s birthdays. Do use combinations of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Substitute numbers for letters, such as “kr0yw3n” for “kroywen.”  Do use phrases rather than single words, for example “blueball00nsareb3st.” Check your current password strength!

Click Smart: Familiarize yourself with common Internet scams! The Federal Trade Commission offers great tips on computer security and a blog full of information for consumers.

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