HONESTe Online Consumer
Using the Internet has become one of the easiest ways for criminals
to steal information. With so much of it available, it's increasingly
important to protect your identity while online. This means blocking
unwanted intrusions by spyware, worms, and other malware. It
means taking precautions when revealing information, and
becoming aware of what you give out, to whom, and why.
Databases provide a wealth of information for the thief. If you have a driver's license, social security number, credit cards, insurance, financial accounts, etc., you have reason for concern. All of your personal information is stored on computers, and it may be at risk if it is on an unsecured computer. Any sensitive information should be encrypted.
Here is our list of things you can do to increase your level of safety and security on the Internet.
Remove personal information from computer
Limit the amount of personal information to keep on your
computer, and remove as much of it as possible. Copy what you
need onto a disk and lock it away. Keeping Social Security
numbers, birthdates, account numbers, passwords, and similar
information on your computer is an invitation to hackers.
Encrypt sensitive information
If you need to store personal information on your computer, make
certain it is encrypted. Never put sensitive information in an e-mail
unless it is encrypted.
Finding spyware on your computer can be extremely upsetting and
frustrating. It's used to spy on your activities without your
knowledge or consent. All sorts of confidential information is
collected passwords, user names, shopping activities, e-mail,
financial information, and more. Some spyware can appear without
the criminal even having physical access to your computer.
To identify where the spyware is coming from and prevent snooping
on your browsing activities, use an anti-spyware program. This is an easy way
to deal with aggressive marketers and those trying to get
information they have no right to see, as well as eliminate malicious
Create barriers anti-virus and firewall protection
By using a firewall, you've made it more difficult for hackers to
break into your computer and steal information or place
unwanted elements onto it. Anti-virus software scans and deletes
bugs and viruses before they can damage files and steal
Download anti-virus protection and update it regularly, and use a
firewall to keep hackers out. You need to have both on your
computer, in addition to anti-spyware. This is because each
program will protect against different threats.
Download security patches
Security patches are used to plug any holes in the security of your
operating system. Be sure to download and install the latest security patches and updates for your operating system.
Download with care
Be very careful about what you are downloading from the Internet.
Some sites will put spyware and adware into their downloads in
order to track where you go and what you do online. Don't click on hyperlinks sent by
strangers or people you don't trust.
Beware of hackers
Whether you realize it, hackers are constantly trying to break into
your computer to infect it. Their spyware, viruses, and worms may
find its way onto your computer in the most innocent of ways; simply by opening a file or attachment that has been infected, or
buried deep within shareware or free programs.
Change your passwords
Change your passwords frequently, and don't use the same one for all of your required logins. Use combinations of letters and numbers that are randomized and difficult to guess. Never use birthdates, telephone numbers, or anything that might be easy to guess. Automatic logins compromise the security of your information. Always logout of a site so no one can see your information.
Use encrypted browsers
Some browsers are more secure than others are. Use one that
encrypts information. Whenever you submit data, look for the "lock icon" on the browser's status bar or an indication the site uses secure
socket layer (SSL) to be sure your information is secure during
transmission. Some secure sites will have an "s" after the "http" to
let you know that your information is safe.
Although most people use Internet Explorer, it is notorious for being
easy to penetrate and requires frequent safety patches. You may
want to consider using a more secure browser which
provides a higher level of safety.
Use unique, secure passwords
Choose passwords having a combination of letters and numbers.
Don't use anything obvious, like birthdays, telephone numbers, etc.
Choose a new password for each place that requires a login. It's
safest to change passwords every few months.
Never use an automatic login, which saves your username and
password, and makes it easy for hackers to attack. Always logoff a
site so your information can't be viewed. This is particularly
important if you are using a shared or public computer, such as at a
library or cyber café.
A thief doesn't need to have much computer expertise to install a
keylogger on a public computer and steal your information. The
criminal can have the stolen information e-mailed back to his
account or back to the computer where the logs can be seen.
Computers in libraries, cyber cafes, copying centers, and similar
locations are vulnerable.
Monitor computer use
If someone other than yourself has access to your computer,
monitor its use. Know when they are using it and have some idea of
which sites are being visited and what they are doing.
Remove private information from your computer
Don't keep your credit card numbers, account numbers, birthdates, passwords, and similar information on your computer. This is a hacker's dream. Copy what you need to disk and store it in a safe place, locked away.
Overwrite your hard drive before disposal
Before getting rid of any computer, it's important to remove all of
your personal information. The entire hard drive should be
overwritten to make it impossible to recover your files. There are "wipe" utility programs that will do this.
You can get information
from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) at www.epic.org.
Who's using your computer?
If other people are using your computer, be particularly careful about what they can gain access to, and where they surf. They may be downloading at an unsafe site that will infect your computer with a virus, or more likely, attach spyware without the user's knowledge or consent. Make sure you understand the privacy policies of the sites you are visiting.
Make sure that the web sites you are using have privacy policies.
Read them, and make sure you understand what information they
are collecting and how the information collected is used and shared.
Sites that don't have a policy posted should be considered suspect.
Disconnect from the Internet
When not using your computer online, make sure it is not
connected to the Internet. If your computer is turned off when not
in use, it cannot be attacked.