Do you purchase items online using credit cards? How about frequenting chat rooms and/or forums? Do you spend time sitting at your computer online reading news, blogs, emailing or searching for information?
If your answer to any of these questions is “yes” then maybe it is time to think about the security of your computer. It is so easy to think, “that would never happen to me! Why take the time and thought to worry over something that will never occur. After all, who would be interested in me, my identity or my computer?”
The answer: Hackers!
Often, it is nothing personal and many times is an automated program. Often, the culprit is merely trying to gain pageviews for a certain web site to increase the Google PageRank by redirecting the visitor. If it is identity theft, the culprit stands much to gain – from money, investment information to credit card numbers. It is definitely well worth the time it requires to protect yourself with easy to perform computer maintenance.
Unfortunately, sometimes no matter what steps are taken, leaks occur. Not too long ago, I received a call from our credit card company asking to check some unusual charges to our account. Thankfully, they did check, as we had not make the purchases in question – over $500 worth of purchases! In fact, the card in question was still in my purse! When I questioned the security agent about how it occured with the card in my purse, he replied that often, thousands of combinations of numbers are tried until the culprit finds one that works. In this case, I had used the credit card for online purchases but was unable to trace the point at which the card was compromised. Remember, never give out personal information over the phone. The agent gave me the last 4 digits of the credit card but never asked for my account number or any personal information.
Here are a few simple steps which can be taken to protect yourself, your identity and the security of your computer:
- Install and activate firewall software. Keep all software updated!
- Install and activate antispyware. Keep all software updated!
- Run antivirus software and keep it updated!
- Beware of emails that sound to good to be true.
- When buying online, use only one credit card when paying. Many credit card companies now offer a virtual number for a one time use, take advantage of these.
- Be careful when sharing personal information online, especially in chat rooms or forums.
- Do not give account information unless you have initiated the phone call or online request (ie. gone to the official website yourself, not being redirected from an email).
- Consider your Passwords – are they strong? A strong password contains not only letters (both lower and upper case) but also numbers and symbols. In addition, don’t write passwords down anywhere and do not have your computer remember them. Be sure to choose something other than family birth dates, address or other common combinations of personal information.
Now, you may be thinking that these steps are going to cost me time to implement, but in the long run, they could save a lot more than time!
How to Keep Kids Safe Online
by Expert Mommy, Dina-Marie Oswald