Tips to increase security while online

TALLAHASSEE— Consumers are spending hours surfing, shopping, playing games and communicating online, but as with any activity, it is important to put security, privacy and safety first. "Technology is such an important part of our lives, and we must use it responsibly by protecting our personal information," said Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. "Any information you post online can never fully be removed, so guard your information very carefully and never share it with strangers or enter into unfamiliar Web sites." The Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe), McCollum and AT&T offer the following tips for consumers to protect their privacy online. PRNewswire

What happens online stays online . . . forever. The Internet helps us enhance our social and civic lives. As you post photos and personal information, remember many Web sites and social networks are public, and information posted online is often permanent and searchable.

Know with whom you are sharing information online. Social media sites, chat rooms and other online forums can be anonymous, and some people may be pretending to be someone they are not. Be as suspicious of a stranger online as you are of strangers in public places.

Review privacy policies, privacy settings and profile preferences. Be cautious of giving out personal information, particularly your Social Security number and names of family members, unless you are familiar with the company and its Web site privacy policy.

Keep virus and spyware protection up to date and in place. Computer viruses often look like something they are not — such as a picture, screen saver or even a Web link. Some spyware programs can track everything you do online and send this information to an unauthorized user, leaving you vulnerable to identity theft. Antivirus and spyware protection programs scan and monitor your computer for viruses and spyware and then alert you before damage occurs.

Avoid sending sensitive personal data over public connections. Be aware that many public computers, such as those at the library, and unsecured Wi-Fi connections can enable other users nearby to capture the information you are sending or receiving. If you have to use an unsecured or public connection, make sure the site is secure.

Never respond to e-mails or popups asking for personal data or passwords. Use filtering software to help block unwanted e-mail and to reduce the likelihood of receiving viruses and spyware from unknown senders. Also use popup- and ad-blocking features that let you control the quantity and type of popups you receive.

Use a strong password for all devices and accounts. Use combinations of letters, numbers, upper and lower case characters and symbols in your passwords. Change your passwords frequently.

Find Web sites on your own; don't use links in e-mails or on other sites. "Phishing," also known as "brand spoofing" or "carding," is a trick Internet scammers use to get consumers' financial information and password data using fake company e-mails and Web sites. Instead of clicking the link in the e-mail, go to the site directly from your browser or search engine.

Look for signs that a Web site is secure before sending financial or personal data. Secure sites will often show a "lock" icon or there will be an "s" after the "http" ("https://"). If you don't see these indications, then the site is probably not secure and you should carefully consider whether to send personal or financial data over the site.

Talk to your kids, teens and tweens. Teach children to never share their name, address, phone number, school name or any other personal information about their family while online.

Use the parental control tools available to make your job easier. Parental controls enable you to establish sensible boundaries around the technology your family uses on a daily basis and to determine how and when your children can use their phone, computer or other connected device.

Tips to increase security while online 02/12/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 12, 2010 3:30am]

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