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Internet Safety

Internet Security

Internet Securityis a term you will often hear, along with others like Hacking, Firewall, Phishing, Spyware, Adware, Virus and Worm. It is a subject that a large percentage of Internet users know precious little about. This article is here to help you understand and plan how to secure and protect yourself from Internet Predators.

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A hacker is, in essence, anyone who attempts to gain access to a computer or network of computers without permission.

Computer viruses get their name by how they spread. They "Infect" files on your computer, and when you give/send that file to someone else and they use it, their computer becomes infected. Viruses cause damage to your computer in many ways and can range from the slightly annoying to very destructive.

A worm is similar to a virus, but it primarily uses flaws in exisitng software to gain access to your computer over a network, such as the internet.

Trojan Horse
As the name implies, a trojan horse is a virus or worm that hides itself inside something that appears innocent, but is intended to give another person or persons access to your computer. This "Backdoor" gives control of your computer to someone else, and usually without your knowledge or permission.

Spam E-mail
Spam plays a big role with Hackers and Phishers. Spam e-mails can hide Viruses, Worms, Trojans, and many other things. Phishing e-mails which look authentic will divert you to a hacker controlled website where you are asked to enter your passwords and personal information.

Phishing is an attempt by someone to convince you to provide them with your personal information. Passwords, Account numbers, Names, Addresses etc.. are all targets for Phishers. Phishing can ultimately lead to Identity Theft.

While the term taken literally suggests software that it monitors you, it has come to refer more broadly to software that modifies your computer's operation for the benefit of a third party. Spyware is added in with many popular free software suites. Spyware collects your internet surfing habits, and can create pop up advertising. Even when you aren't connected to the internet.

Identity Theft
Anyone who has enough information about you could "Steal" your identity. Think of the last time you called up a company you do business with. A credit card company for example, will ask for information to verify who you are when you call them. If you are not the only person who has that information, you are not the only person who has access to your account. Anyone who knows enough information about you can get loans, open accounts, get replacement credit and debit cards, and even more.

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Prevention Measures

Software Updates
Free, and easy to get. Software updates are the first step in preventing unauthorized access to your computer. Updating your computer will fix flaws in your computer's software.

If you use any version of Microsoft software, Including Windows and Office, visit Microsoft Update.

A software program that regularaly scans the data on your computer for Viruses, Worms and other forms of malicious software.

Like an Anti-virus, Anti-Spyware scans for and removes Spyware from your computer.

A Firewall can be either hardware or software based. The purpose of a firewall is to prevent connections to your computer, and notify you if they occur. In order for a virus or worm to send your information to a hacker, it must connect to the internet. This software prevents that from happening by notifying you each time a program on your computer sends or recives information over the internet.

It is then up to you to allow or deny the connection.

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How do I protect myself?

The software solutions listed above are a great start. But there's still a few more ways for someone to get your information. Let's take a few more moments to review some security practices.

Secure passwords play a key role in preventing your information from slipping into someone else's hands. Don't use dates, names, or other personal information as passwords, the can be easily discovered. A password does not need to be complex and hard to remember to prevent it from being discovered, it needs to be long.

The longer a password is, the harder it is to guess or crack. Open up your favorite book to a random page and pick a word, then choose a number or symbol, and finally another random word. You will end up with a powerfull and easy to remember password.

Sort your garbage
Every day you throw out garbage. Take a moment to think about what you toss every day. Junk Mail, can include personal information and provide the starting point for someone to get a credit card in your name. Shredding junk mail and old bills can help protect that information.

Know who you are talking to
Do not provide information over the phone ESPECIALLY to someone who called you. However don't expect to call out to a company you have dealings with and not provide them with at least some form of verification.

Older wireless telephones can be intercepted with a commonly available police scanner up to a mile away from your house. Keeping a wired telephone somewhere in your house to use when you need to discuss personal information, or getting a more secure wireless phone, can prevent unwanted listeners.

If they ask, Don't tell
You should NEVER be legitimately called, e-mailed, or messaged by ANY company you do business with to verify your information. If you are asked, it is most likely an attempt at Phishing.

Proof Positive
Get a name and call back number from the person calling, then call the company using a publicly availible telephone directory number. They will be able to verify if you had been called, or verify if the caller is an employee.

Shut them down
If you use a Broadband internet connection, shutting down your computer when you aren't using it, can benefit you. If your computer is not on, a hacker cannot try to access it.

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Online safety

The Web can be a great place to find information, but be extra cautious about the information you give. Here are just a few tips on what to think about while online.

  • Never send account information, such as your account number or PIN, in the body of an email.
  • Beware of phishing emails. These are emails that appear to be from your bank or an online merchant asking you to provide your account information. These emails are bogus. Reputable merchants will never ask for any account or personal information in an email.
  • Never click on Internet links within emails. Instead, type the known URL.
  • Before making purchases online, be sure that the site has built-in security features to protect your account information. All reputable merchant sites use encryption technologies that will protect your private data from being read by others as you conduct an online transaction.
  • When using a public computer to shop online or access your account(s), always remember to log off and close the browser when you are finished. All it takes for someone to view your personal information is simply hitting the back button.
  • Protect information by only using a computer that has a firewall in place.
  • Implement anti-spyware and anti-virus software updates as soon as theyíre available.

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Shopping Online

Tips to keep you safe while shopping online

Shopping online can be fun and rewarding, but there are a few basic things you should know before you begin.

Shop at trusted online retailers
You wouldn't shop at a brick-and-mortar store you didn't trust, so make sure you're as vigilant about your online retail choices. Buy from trusted sources, and if you're not sure do your research. Perform a background check, request a catalog by mail, or talk to a customer service representative for more information. You can also look for third-party seals of approval to get additional peace of mind.

Pay with your Visa debit card
Using your Visa debit card online is both safe and easy. Youíre protected in exactly the same way you are when using your card at a store, ordering from a catalog by mail, or placing an order over the phone.

Read return and shipping information
When calculating the final cost of a purchase, donít forget shipping and handling charges. If youíre doing business with a merchant located in another state or country, taxes and international costs may apply. Before you buy, check the merchant site for a description of charges that will apply to your purchase.

Look for signs of security
Protect your private information while shopping online. Look for a padlock in the status bar at the bottom of the browser window, a URL that begins "https://", or the words "Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)." These signs indicate that only you and the merchant can view your payment information.

Keep your information and records safe
Never send payment information via email. Information that travels over the Internet (like email) is not fully protected from being read by outside parties.

Just as you save store receipts after you've completed an in-store purchase, you should keep records of your Internet purchases. These records are just like the receipt you'd get in a store.

Here are some tips on keeping your data secure:

Buy over a secure computer
Use the latest version of your browser's software and check to be sure your computer's operating system software is up to date.

Protect your password

Creating a strong password is key. Donít use the obvious (such as your birthday, nickname, motherís maiden name, phone number or the name of your pet) and use six or more characters (mix letters and numbers and use upper-case and lower-case letters) if possible. Try to create a new password for each siteóand never share it with anyone.

Be careful of one-click shopping
Although itís convenient to have your information stored and easy to access, never use this feature on a public computer.

Review the privacy statement
Whether it's called Terms of Use, Terms and Conditions or a Privacy Statement, reputable online merchants should post details on their site about how they use your information. Check their policies carefully and make sure they're not selling your information to outside sources.

Also, be prudent about what information you reveal for a purchaseósome things, like credit card numbers, are necessary. But if a question seems too invasiveólike your social security numberóskip it.

Never provide your credit card number as proof of your age

If a merchant requests that you provide your Credit card number as proof of your age, do not give this information. A card number does not verify oneís age. When you pay online, make sure that you are using a secure browser and always look for the merchantís privacy policy and an explanation of how you are protected.

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Online shopping safety tips

Tips to keep you safe

  • Beware of emails offering cut-rate prices on popular toys, software or other gifts; if the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If you receive an unsolicited email from an Internet merchant, do not click on the links within it. Instead, locate the merchantís Web site address through a reputable search engine or type the known address.
  • Check Internet merchantsí refund policies; some merchants set a deadline for returns or charge a fee to accept returned merchandise.
  • Never share your passwords with anyone. Use different passwords for different Web sites.
  • Do not provide your social security number, birth date, or motherís maiden name in an email or within a Web site.
  • Ensure your computer has the latest anti-virus software installed before shopping online.
  • Always print and save the confirmation page when completing an online purchase.
  • Donít wait for paper statements. Check your credit card and bank statements for suspicious activity by either calling your bank or visiting your financial institutionís Web site.

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