Remember These Rules to Stay Safe Online - dummies

By Marsha Collier

Volumes of tips have been written to keep people safe online. This list doesn’t give you all the whys and wherefores. If you’ve been around the block, all you need are a few easy-to-follow rules for staying safe during your online social interactions.

  1. When using Wi-Fi in a public place, limit your online dealing to reading news, social updates, and general (not too personal) information.

    Since public Wi-Fi hotspots are open networks, there is no security to keep your data safe; therefore, when you connect in public, nothing is really private. So Starbucks (and other public zones like hotels) are not the appropriate place to perform financial transactions or to send anything over the network that might reveal your personal information.

  2. Don’t click links you receive in e-mail messages.

    Even if you get an e-mail message from someone you know, don’t click any links. There’s no way to know for sure that the person’s account hasn’t been hacked; if it has, chances are you’re being directed to a site that can do you serious damage. Here are specific examples of e-mail messages with links that you might receive:

    • Phishing e-mails: These e-mails purport to be from your bank, your investment broker, or even your insurance company. They ask you to click a link and when you do, you arrive on a page where you have to log in.

      Do not log in (if you’ve gone this far). Bad-deed doers can replicate a web page to look very official, and what they really want is your log-in information — in particular your passwords, account information, or Social Security Number.

    • E-mails that you think are from friends: You may get a link in an e-mail message that you think is from a friend. Don’t click it unless you are sure!

      Sometimes these links take you to a website where you can get a Trojan (a sneaky program that gives a hacker remote access to your computer), a virus (when unknowingly downloaded, replicates itself to wreak havoc on your programs or data), a worm (a variant of a virus that replicates itself transparently until it takes over all your computer’s memory and possibly your hard drive), or heaven knows what. Stay safe.

    • E-mails from your bank or someone that you do business with: Instead of clicking a link in the e-mail, go to the bank or business website by typing the web address in your browser address bar as you usually do. If the bank or business has some sort of special message for you, it will show up when you sign in to your account.

      Most times, you will not receive an e-mail link unless you sign up with the business for automatic payments or notices.

  3. Stay safe with friends.

    You’ll find that you will have more “friends” getting in touch with you on Twitter because Twitter is a bit more impersonal. The fun of Twitter is being able to hear from many people from different places. Also, your Twitter bio is only a sentence long and it doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) give much away about you.

    Facebook’s info page does show a lot of information. You might not want everyone on your friend list to be able to see everything — perhaps only your closest friends. Use Facebook’s security controls to set controls for who can see what when they visit your Facebook pages.

  4. Don’t give away too much information on any Internet site.

    Don’t give away any bit of information that makes you feel uncomfortable. Be careful who you trust online with your home address and other contact information. And never give away your Social Security Number!

    Someone with just a few bits of information about you can get a lot more data than you can imagine. The Internet has plenty of sites (for example, Google maps) that will even show people a photo of your house. Always be cautious.