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Driving safely on the internet highway
November 19, 2017, 2:58 pm

The internet is no doubt a mine of information and entertainment, but it is also an environment inhabited by unsavory elements who threaten the safety of your online presence. The good news is that you do not need to be a cyber-security ninja to protect yourself and your loved ones. Following the tips listed below will go a long way to ensuring the safety and security of your online data.

Backup your data. Backup your data regularly with an offline device. If you become a victim of ransomware and you only have a cloud-based backup service, your files in the cloud will also become encrypted.

Oversee your children’s computer usage. Children should use a computer in a common area of the home so parents can ensure their children are not communicating with people or sites that could cause harm. Many different devices have internet connectivity, so monitor children using cell phones, tablets, e-readers, gaming devices and laptops. Know all the passwords for your children’s devices in case your child becomes endangered by someone online and authorities need to conduct an investigation into your child’s online communication. Know your children's social networking connections and the people they play online games with. Keep computer webcams covered with painter’s tape or a sticky note when they are not being used to communicate with family members and friends. Attackers who have access to your computer can remotely turn the cameras on without a user’s knowledge. Regularly talk to you children about online safety, but keep the tone informal.

Ensure application software is updated. Since many software programs do not have an automated update feature, attackers frequently target those programs to gain unauthorized access to a computer. There are several software products, including the free and versatile FileHippo App Manager, which inform you about applications installed on your PC that are vulnerable to attack and need to be updated.

Exercise caution when opening emails.  Beware of emails with attachments or links urging immediate action, especially those purportedly from a delivery service or bank. Some malicious emails seem to come from popular businesses, but the attachments or links in them may surreptitiously download malware. When you open any email, even one from a friend, be cautious about clicking on any links or attachments. If your friend’s email account has been hacked, you could easily receive an email that purportedly comes from your friend, when in reality, it comes from the attacker.

Be cautious with social networking. Do not post pictures or texts that reveal any personal information like home addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, or places you and your family regularly attend, such as schools or recreational complexes. Someone with ill intent could use that information to harm you or your children. When in doubt, remove it. Never accept connections from people you do not know, and be sure you have your profile set to private so only those you trust can see your information.


Be careful when using Wi-Fi hotspots. When you connect to Wi-Fi in a public place such as an airport, restaurant or mall, your communications may not be private unless you are using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN allows you to send and receive data across a public network as if you were actually on a private network, so anyone intruding on the Wi-Fi connection cannot see or capture your data or login credentials. Attackers often set up ‘open’ Wi-Fi access points with names similar to the name of the establishment. This fools users into using the attackers’ network, allowing them to capture your keystrokes and spy on your communication.

Use Bluetooth sparingly. Although Bluetooth is useful for connecting headsets, hands-free speakerphones, and speakers to your cellular phone, it can also be an entry vector for unwanted devices and malware. Keep Bluetooth disabled until you need to connect to a device. 

Get professional help. If you notice any strange activities occurring on your computer, such as seeing more popup ads than usual, seeing software applications that have mysteriously appeared on your computer, or getting redirected to a website whose address you did not type into the URL, see help from a computer professional or take your computer to a reputed repair shop. The sooner you get the threat out of your system, the least harm to you, your family and your data.


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