Look for a secure connection. When navigating to a site, look at the URL bar. It should start with "https" instead of "http." If the address starts with "https," this ensures site authenticity and privacy protection.
Do not store information online. Many sites give users the option to store payment information online. It is best to avoid this, and especially avoid doing this on public computers at libraries or college campuses.
Create strong passwords. Since many hacking programs use a long list of dictionary words, avoid using words in a password. Use a mixture of letters and numbers. Whenever possible, use symbols as well. The mixture of letters should include capitalized and lower-case letters.
Log out when finished. It is important to log out of any site or account when finished. Closing a tab or window does not automatically log a user out. This is especially important when using public computers.
Uploads are permanent. Never upload anything that should not be on the Internet forever. Photos and other uploaded content can be saved and reposted by others.
Keep protection updated. Anti-virus software should be updated frequently. Make sure the firewall is up and also stays updated.
Use social media responsibly. Always be aware of what is posted on Facebook and other social media sites. Read the fine print in the terms of service. For example, Facebook's terms state that anything uploaded by users is owned by and can be used by Facebook until the user deletes the content or its associated account.
Emails may be stored. Sent emails are stored on a server. They often stay on the server until the sender and recipient both delete the mail. Since many people do not delete their emails routinely, sensitive information sent in an unencrypted email could be accessible to hackers via the server. Be sure to encrypt emails with sensitive information.
These tips are a must for all adults to stay safe.
Adults with kids should teach children the following practices as they are online.
Never let them talk to strangers. The Internet is full of forums, comment sections and games where conversations are encouraged. Predators know where they can find children and do not limit themselves to just a few sites.
Track their activities. Parents should track all of their kids' online interactions. There are hidden programs for monitoring conversations and site activity. Also, parents can use the parental controls on an operating system.
Know who is watching the kids. Twitter, Facebook and other social media programs allow followers, friends or both. Find out who is following or befriending children. If they are strangers, delete and block them. Many predators set up fake accounts pretending to be children to connect with younger kids.
Teach kids about online dangers. In addition to telling kids how strangers connect with them online, show them some examples. There are plenty of movies that are interesting enough to be entertaining for them but eye-opening enough to show them how real the dangers are. Also, be sure to stress the permanence of uploaded content and public posts. Let them know that public comments next to their names are indexed and are searchable online. For teens who are seeking jobs, this can be detrimental in hiring decisions if their posts are offensive. Many colleges also use social media activity to make admission choices. Tell kids that photos can be downloaded from friends-only restricted posts and private messages.
Internet safety involves much more than using a good anti-virus program and not giving out personal information to strangers. It is an important topic for both adults and children. To learn more about staying safe online, discuss concerns with an agent 314-351-HALO (4265).