This week thousands of Manatee County schoolchildren headed back to school. As you no doubt have noticed, the educational landscape is shifting to digital. Rather than hitting the books in the library, kids are Googling to conduct online research and increasingly connecting with their teachers and peers.
And while social media sites are a great way to connect with others, it is important to be aware of the information that you are sharing. Cyber thieves use this information to break in to your online accounts or even your house.
Let’s talk this month about some precautions to ensure online safety for both children and adults.
Protecting You and Your Online Accounts
- Create a strong password – A strong password contains a mix of lowercase and uppercase letters, symbols and numbers. Do not use a password that’s easy to guess, like “12345” or “password.” We recommend using a secure password manager like LastPass.
- Install a firewall – A firewall on your computer and router protects your machines from unauthorized intruders.
- Use updated anti-virus and anti-spyware – Viruses can disable your computer, and spyware can steal your passwords and account numbers.
- Download cautiously – If you visit a website that looks questionable, leave. Some free games and free downloads are really tricks to get you to download viruses or spyware.
- Shop safely – If a web address begins with “https” rather than “http,” it is generally secure. Avoid financial transactions on “http” sites.
- Update software automatically – When a computer or mobile phone company discovers a security threat, they will create a fix for it. Set up your systems to update software automatically for added security.
- Use WPA2 when setting up your home wifi – “Wireless Protected Access 2” is the safety technology that helps protect your wireless connection.
Social Media Safety
— Familiarize yourself with the social media platforms kids use today. Fewer teens are Facebook users in 2015, opting instead for Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope, Tumblr, YouTube and Vine.
—Keep the computer in a common area of your home, where you can easily keep an eye on your child’s online browsing.
— Consider what you post on social media: information relating to common website authentication questions such as birth date, high school or your mother’s maiden name. Cyber thieves use this information to impersonate you, reset your online accounts and steal your identity or money. Likewise, do not post your personal e-mail address or phone number on your profile.
— Realize that the pictures you post online could tell others exactly where you and your family live, work and play. Resist the “I’m going on vacation” social media announcements before your trip.
— Disable location services for your apps to prevent your exact location to from being shared every time you post something new.
— Routinely check your settings. Social media services change features and settings all the time and may change who sees your posts. Regularly check your settings to make sure your personal information isn’t broadcast to the world.
— Similarly, check your child’s privacy settings (especially: who may contact them) on each social network regularly.
— Respond to a breach. Change your password if you hear that your social media site has been breached. This happens more than you think – LinkedIn reported an incident in 2012 where 6 million user account passwords were stolen by hackers.
Protecting Your Data and Computers
— Limit use of computer administrator accounts. Using a standard user account for daily activities helps protect your computer from viruses and malware by limiting changes that affect the entire system. Save the administrator account for those times when you do need to install new hardware, programs or software updates.
— Protect your $$. When banking and shopping, check to be sure the site is protecting your information by encrypting it. You can tell if a site is encrypting your information by looking to see if the web address begins with ’https’ (s = secure) rather than ’http’.
— Don’t be tricked into opening an attachment or providing confidential information about yourself. Cyber thieves hide malicious software in attachments that can steal your personal information, passwords and eventually, your money. Only open attachments that you are expecting from people you know.
— Never provide your user ID and password via a clicked-on link from an email or text. Either enter the valid website address manually or click on your ‘Favorites’ to go directly to the trusted site before entering your user ID and password.
— When in doubt, throw it out. Bad links in emails, tweets, posts and online advertising are popular avenues used by cyber thieves to break into your computer. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the person sending it, it’s best to just hit delete.
— Be sure to update your homeowner’s insurance coverages to include your valuable computer and electronic equipment. Call us if you have any questions!
Information provided in part by Safeco Insurance and Nationwide Insurance.