The internet is a scary place full of deception and malicious intent Luckily, there are a few tips that will significantly decrease your risk of exploitation. Even lessen your exposure to it as you quietly slip away into the background away from hackers, stalkers, and harmful people. Heed these warnings, and you’ll be on the track to internet safety! Don’t Give Out Personal Info Unless it is a well-known bank, reputable business that you work for, or a legit insurance company, chances are you shouldn’t divulge any personal information. This starts with your Social Security Number. Never give this out without talking directly to the company outside of the internet. People usually know this, but they don’t always realize that addresses, full names, and occasionally phone numbers are also important to keep to yourself in general. Phone numbers are a little different, because you can just change them in a jiffy, but if you do give out your number, know to not trust that anyone who calls you is who they say they are. Keep Anti-Virus Software Viruses have been around since personal computers were released. The bad news is that people are only getting better at infecting your PC. The good news is that Anti-Virus software is getting stronger and easier to obtain. This software will constantly scan your computer for viruses. In case you have downloaded something that is filled with malicious intent. There are many free programs available, which do a great deal toward protecting you. But if you want to go that extra mile, get high-end paid software. Use Strong Passwords (and different ones) This is one that we all fall prey to at times. You notice how often sites will require that you put a upper case, lower case, number, and symbol in your password. This is frustrating, but it also adds a decent amount of extra protection. People have been using “password” and “qwerty” and “12345” since 1997. This is simply a bad idea. It’s important that you keep a strong password for all of your accounts. Something different that doesn’t define you or is too vague. For more tips on password security read here. Also important is to not have the exact same password for all websites. You know why? Well, if someone guesses or generates the password for your Instagram, do you want them to automatically gain access to your Facebook, PayPal, and bank account? No, of course not! Don’t Make a Bad Name for Yourself This one is overlooked. But everything that you say, do, or post online can and will be used against you in the court of law and anywhere else. This isn’t just public posts. This is private conversations, emails, blogs, internet searches, and websites you visit too. Act online as you would in person. If you leave an inappropriate comment on an underage girl’s photo, you will be held accountable. Even private conversations filled with bias can affect whether you get hired on at your next job. Don’t Keep Info on Your Phone You may say, “Hey, my phone isn’t ‘online.’” But, yes, it is. These days, everyone is constantly online. Your devices connect to the internet and can give hackers access to your storage. Everything on your phone can be hacked into by others. They can retrieve bank info, photos, passwords, and whatever else you have stored on your SD or internal storage. So, as a habit, any important or private info, leave them offline. Either on a notepad, or some other offline device. It’s true that this will not ensure your privacy, but it is another step. Be Smart with Social Media Woah! That sure hits home! Ninety-nine percent of users are completely unsafe on social media. You may think your profile is set on private, but friends of friends may be viewing your stuff. Or maybe you have a friend who is not exactly who you think they are. Have you ever added someone you didn’t know? Could be that the pretty girl from Brazil is actually an American hacker or stalker. Unlikely, yeah. Most likely they are just a perv. Do you have your address, phone number, full name, and school posted on your about page? What about the event you’re going to this weekend? Or where you are eating for lunch? Alone… Smart, right? What about posting photos of your children at the park that you go to every Sunday? See where I’m going? It seems innocent, but these are major red flags. Sure, thousands of people do this, and there is a very, very small chance that you will be one of their victims. But, if you want to give yourself the best chance, this is a big step. Watch Out for Fraud and Scams This one is hard. There are so many offers, websites, sweepstakes, and programs that are available online. Many of them are legit, but many are not. These can be done via email, phone, text, or social media. To completely avoid these, just stick to what you know. Use only trusted websites. Not sure about one? Sometimes people pose as representatives from official sites. One of the biggest types of scams is those that ask you for money, an investment. If you are asked for money, for any reason, simply do not do it. If you are offered a prize that you did not sign up for, do not accept it without authorization. If you are asked for bank info, do not give it. Ever. If you are pressured to accept the offer in a limited time slot, chances are, it is a scam. Looking for reputations for sites when you are not contacted and you simply want to know if the site you are visit is trusted can be difficult. One legit site to find this is the Better Business Bureau. Also, a great browser extension is the Web of Trust. But simply searching the site on Google is also a great way to check reputation. Just make sure you check the links that are not ON the site itself. So there we have it, follow these general rules for ultimate protection. You can browse online without feeling like someone’s next victim. Although ensuring they are all accomplished is quite a task, the freedom you are given is definitely worth it.