Here are 10 ways to keep personal information secure when online:
Favour common sense over technological solutions. Keep personal documents safe, preferably in a locked drawer. Shred bank statements, credit card slips and bills before throwing them away.
If it’s too good to be true, it is. Never open spam messages. Delete emails offering cash, free gifts or stock tips. Millions of spam messages are sent every day in an attempt to defraud computer users.
Basic prevention helps. Protect your computer against identity theft. Install security software to combat viruses, spyware and spam and keep it updated.
Know enough about your firewall, the barrier between the public Internet and a personal computer, to know when it is working and when it isn’t. Don’t worry about the geeky complexity of it all, just know it’s operating.
Beware of phishing, where criminals trick people into revealing personal or financial details, often by sending emails purporting to be from a bank. Never casually reply to requests for your personal financial details.
Keep your private email addresses secure. Consider using different email accounts for shopping, banking, friends and work. There are many free account providers.
Do not use the same password for different sites. Choose passwords with a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use obvious passwords, such as your first name or “123456” and don’t write them down. To make it easier to remember, choose a basic root word and then rotate numbers.
Make online payments safely. Never enter a card number unless there is a padlock in the Web browser’s frame, rather than the Web page. The Web address should begin with https—the extra “s” stands for “secure”. Consider reserving one credit card for Web use or signing up for a separate online payment service such as PayPal.
Secure your wireless network at home and be wary when using public access points. Encrypt the connection to scramble communications over the network. Turn off the wireless network when you’re not using it.
Treat your laptop like cash—never leave it in a locked car or turn your back while using it in a public place. The same holds true for your cellphone: Lock your phone (and any passwords you keep on it) when not using it.