5 secrets of Internet safety
With an increase in the use of smartphones and tablets, many Americans have Wi-Fi access 24/7, wherever they travel. Banking and shopping online might be convenient, but they can also make you vulnerable to cybercrime, which increased 3.4 percent in 2011. Here are a few tips for protecting yourself online:
- Secret One
1. Protect your home network.
Although most home Internet networks are password protected, many people don’t change the default code they are given, says Troy Tuckett, who teaches in the IT program for the University of Phoenix. “If neighbors or people parked outside your home guess your password, they can access all the files on your computer and potentially even print with your printer, or use your computer to store their files,” he explains.
Tuckett advises people to ask their Internet provider about WPA2-level passwords, containing 21 characters or more, instead of outdated WEP passwords that are only eight characters long. “A 21-character password containing numbers, letters and special characters is difficult to hack.”
- Secret Two
2. Stop viruses before they spread.
“It’s very important to purchase anti-virus software for your computer,” advises Tuckett, who also manages IT projects in the financial services sector. “There are dummy websites out there that may look, for instance, indistinguishable from a website for the ‘The Hunger Games,’ and we have no idea when we click on them that we are exposing ourselves to viruses.”
Tuckett was the victim of a virus that entered his computer and tracked the keystrokes he used to log in to personal accounts. The hackers then listed false items on Tuckett’s eBay® account in an attempt to collect money. Use software such as Norton Utilities® that will notify you instantly if a virus is detected, Tucker suggests.
- Secret Three
3. Don’t make yourself vulnerable in public.
It might be fun to sip a latte while doing your taxes, but it’s not a good idea to access sensitive information while using public Wi-Fi at places such as Starbucks®.
“People don’t realize that most networks in restaurants and public places aren’t protected,” says Ernie Hernandez, who teaches in the Information Systems Security program for University of Phoenix Southern California Campus. The result: a computer-savvy Joe sitting next to you can hack into your files.
- Secret Four
4. Beware of IP-tracking programs.
“Be aware that when you use Google, everything you search for is tracked,” says Hernandez, who has also worked in IT systems for AT&T®. Case in point: If you log in to Gmail™ on someone else’s computer and don’t log out, your Google searches from the past decade (or however long you’ve had the account) can be displayed in that person's browser.
Use cloaking software such as Anonymizer™, which is designed to offer privacy by making your IP address generic, Hernandez advises.
- Secret Five
5. Change how you access the Internet on the go.
Instead of using public Wi-Fi, access the Internet by configuring your smartphone to provide online access to your laptop or tablet. “The Android® and iPhone® smartphones have applications to set this up for you,” Hernandez says.
eBay is a registered trademark of eBay Inc.
Norton Utilities is a registered trademark of Symantec Corporation.
Starbucks is a registered trademark of Starbucks Corporation
AT&T is a registered trademark of AT&T Intellectual Property
Gmail is a trademark of Google Inc.
Anonymizer is a registered trademark of Anonymizer Inc.
Android is a trademark of Google Inc.
iPhone is a registered trademark of Apple Inc.