Safe Online Practices

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Mobile Practices

In today’s technologically advanced society, our mobile devices can be used for far more than a simple phone call. We can write documents, stream movies, email, take photos, purchase items, and access our bank account all from what is, essentially, a handheld computer. However, with convenience comes caution. Should these mobile devices become stolen, the thief could be able access sensitive information leading to identity theft and fraud. Thankfully, there are some precautions we should all take that can minimize the chances of this happening
  1. Much like car burglars will usually pass up a vehicle that is locked, encrypting your mobile device with a password is usually enough to deter a thief from even attempting to access your information. That said, you should keep your passwords somewhat complicated in case someone does try to gain access. “Password” is not a good password. Make it something personal that only you would know. Add numbers and special characters such as “!” and “$” to ensure your password is as secure as possible.
  2. If you must write down your username and passwords, do so in a personal notebook that you can keep secure in your home.
  3. Only download applications from trusted sources. If you aren’t sure what applications you should use for a desired purpose, ask a friend or coworker who is tech savvy and see what applications they prefer. Some devices, such as the Android operating system, have the option to “Install from Unknown Sources.” Make sure this is not enabled.
  4. When not in use, secure your mobile device in a safe location. If you leave the house with it, make sure your mobile device is on you at all times. If you go out to eat, don’t set your mobile device on the table. Thieves are just waiting for their victim to lower their guard or become distracted so they can snatch the mobile device without anyone noticing.
  5. If you get a text message from your credit union, you should delete it after you have gathered the information. This may keep any potential thief from discovering where you bank.
  6. If your mobile device has a contract service and becomes lost or stolen, you should IMMEDIATELY contact your service provider and request to have them suspend or cancel your account. This may keep any unauthorized party from using the device effectively.
  7. Attempting to modify or “jailbreak” a mobile device may disable installed security features putting your information at risk.

Malware Prevention Practices

Malware is short for “Malicious Software.” It’s a catchall term used to describe any harmful software such as viruses, spyware, worms, etc. Depending on the type of malware used, its goal may be to destroy, steal, or alter information on your PC or device. You can follow these guidelines as a defensive plan to help prevent your information from being compromised.
  1. Keep your security software up to date and active at all times. Unless you know what you are doing, changing the default security settings on your PC or device could create a weakness in your defense that could be exploited by malware. Most security software is set by default to update automatically, but you should still make sure it is. Keeping your security software up to date is extremely important. Be mindful of any warnings or messages your security software is giving you.
  2. Malware can be hidden inside attachments such as pictures, documents, etc. Once you open the attachment, the malware will install itself on your PC or device. If you don’t know where or who the email came from, the best course of action is NOT to open any attachments and delete the email.
  3. Sometimes scammers will try to mask the URL of a website in an email. For instance: www.google.com might look like it would take you to the Google search engine, but if you click this link it could take you to a malicious homepage. You can easily imagine a scenario where a link could send you to a malicious website or install malware. The easiest way to prevent this is to simply manually type in the name of a TRUSTED website in your web browser. Much like email attachments, if you don’t know where or who it came from, it is best not to follow any suspicious links and delete the email.
  4. If you are going to install software from the internet, try to get said software from its official website. For example, if you need an Adobe product, go to Adobe’s official website, not a different site that may host the software as well. These websites that host lots of different software from different sources are notorious for infecting PC’s and devices with malware. When installing new software, be wary of any additional software it may attempt to install as well such as toolbars or extra security software.
  5. Popups, ads, and banners are usually a surefire way to get malware if you click on them. A common scam is to have a popup appear saying that your PC or device is in danger of being infected and will attempt to purge this malware if you install this brand new security software. These are traps, don’t fall for them.
  6. Malware can be carried in external devices like a USB or even a phone. A user might not even be aware their external device is infected. Be sure to scan any external devices before allowing them access to your PC.
  7. Backup your data on a regular schedule so that in the event that the worst case scenario happens, and your PC or device is compromised, you have a way to retrieve any data that was lost. If at all possible, you should try to back the data to an external hard drive or to a cloud if that option is available.
  8. Finally, if something looks suspicious and you aren’t sure what to do, ask a friend or relative who is more knowledgeable about computers or software. Most scams or malware can be detected immediately by someone with moderate experience. It’s better to be safe than sorry.