Online Security — Pause, think before you connect!

Online Safety

As internet/computer capabilities grow, your digital footprint expands. Hackers are always on the lookout for personal data they can use to access your credit card and bank information.

Unsafe surfing can also lead to other threats — from embarrassing personal comments or images that, once online, are nearly impossible to erase, to getting mixed up with people you'd rather have had nothing to do with.

Connect Safely

Here are some suggestions to make your day-to-day online connection more productive, safe, and secure.

Keep your computer up to date
Updates help keep a piece of software or a system current. Because new threats are being developed all the time, manufacturers will send out fixes and updates to help protect their users from new threats — or just from problems they didn't find when the software was first made. If you don't download and apply the update to fix the problem, you're basically leaving a door open to attack.

Keep your private information safe
Use a strong, unique password or passphrase for each account, and avoid storing account information on a website. Consider using separate browsers for sensitive logins and general web browsing. To ensure the privacy of personal information online, limit access by going "incognito" and using the browser's private mode. Never use automatic login features that save your username and password. Take the time to re-enter your password each time.

Use private networks
Only connect by Wi-Fi with trusted, password-protected networks. When you're on public Wi-Fi, never access anything private. Accessing sports scores? Cool. Accessing your bank account? Not so much — not when the Wi-Fi's owner could be looking over your cyber-shoulder.

If you use a business's Wi-Fi, make sure to ask the owner for the exact name and password of the network. That way you can avoid mistakes and networks playing copycat. 

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is the most secure option to surf on public networks. It is one of the most useful tools to help people keep their information secure when logged on to public networks.

Make sure a URL includes HTTPS before entering any personal information. If the "S" is missing in a URL, it's probably not safe to use a credit card or share other personal info. This means the connection between the browser and the web server is encrypted, so any data that is submitted to the website will be safe from eavesdropping or tampering. Most browsers also include a padlock symbol at the beginning of the address to indicate the site uses encryption. Don't click on pop-up windows or extraneous ads!

Don't talk to strangers
Especially at the beginning of the semester, during tax season, and holiday shopping season. Remember the old advice about not talking to strangers? It goes double on the internet. Anyone can pretend to be someone else and a message from an exciting new friend, or even one that appears to come from a friend, could actually be a trick. Walk away, don't engage.