We all know someone whose email account has been hacked, credit card number has been stolen or who has unintentionally downloaded a computer virus that rendered a computer useless. You also may have noticed that when you shop online for a product and don’t buy it, the ad for the product follows you to other sites you visit. Or you may have heard about Facebook or Twitter users who post pictures of themselves on the beach during their vacation, only to come home and discover their home was robbed.
Protecting privacy online is becoming increasingly difficult as our society becomes more connected through social networking and as companies (including the government) increasingly track our online behaviors. The privacy precautions you take online can impact your safety, the identities of you and your family, and your financial security.
We don’t say this to scare you, but to encourage you to be cautious about the information you put online, be vigilant about knowing who is watching you online and be sure to keep your privacy settings up-to-date. There are many common sense actions you can take to protect your online privacy and reduce the chance you’ll be the next target for an identity thief or scammer.
The first step in protecting your privacy online is to ensure the tools—desktop computer, laptop, smartphone and/or tablet—you use to access the internet are as secure as possible. Follow these steps to secure your devices:
Lock or log off of your device when you’re done using it. Set a password to access your devices. To be extra cautious, disconnect computer or phone from internet when you’re not using it.
Update your anti-virus software. Virus software updates often include security updates critical to protecting your devices, so it’s important to do these updates regularly.
Make sure web bowsers and plug-ins are up-to-date. It’s important to update your web browsers, PDF viewing software, iTunes software and other software, plug-ins and apps you use when they ask. As with anti-virus software, software updates often include security updates critical to protecting your devices and your private information.
Secure your wireless internet network at home. Your wireless router should come with instructions for setting up a secure network.
Use anti-malware software. This software can check for and remove any malware detected. Microsoft has a free Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool at http://www.microsoft.com/security/pc-security/malware-removal.aspx for computers running the Windows operating systems.
Protect yourself against scammers
Our First Steps series of courses are designed to help beginning genealogists develop a solid foundation of research skills. In this course, you’ll learn the basics of securing and maintaining online privacy. Don’t be the next target for an identity thief or scammer. In this course you’ll learn:
• How much information on you is line, from public records to social media
• Who’s watching you online
• How to set up secure online accounts, such as email and banking
• Online searching privacy
• Online family tree website privacy tips
• Guidelines for posting info on living relatives
• Best tools to manage your internet privacy
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