online security

Six tips to protect your online identity

The internet is a fantastic way to explore, connect and buy. It becomes easier every day to hop online. It’s a way of life for us here in the United States. Although it’s convenient, it’s good idea to be aware of how to protect your online identity, including passwords, relationships and more. Below are six tips that will give you a head start:

Your passwords matter.

Choose really good passwords for the sites you access, and keep track of those passwords in a safe place. The first rule of creating a great password is to create one without any of your personal information. It’s always tempting to base a password on something like your favorite sports team or your birthday, but it’s a bad idea. For a truly unique password, follow these guidelines:

  • Use 8 or more characters
  • Use numbers as well as letters
  • Use one or more special characters such as: !, @, #, or $
  • Use both upper and lower case letters

Finally, try not to use the same password for every site. One strategy is to keep a file that lists your different passwords for every site you frequent, and store it on an external hard drive that you keep with your keychain, for instance.

Be conservative when posting photos.

beerWhen it comes to photos, think twice. There are two basic ways that a photo you’ve posted online can come back to haunt you. First, what you considered to be funny, someone else found offensive. Everyone’s sense of humor and right and wrong is different, so you want to make sure that any photos you post are photos that will be considered appropriate for EVERY audience viewing them. Try not to post any pictures of yourself in compromising positions such as drinking. Secondly, be sure that any photos you’ve posted have been thoroughly scanned for any identifying information. Is your address visible in the photo? Your license plate?

  • Everyone interprets your photos differently. A photo of you and your friends at a party, for instance, may be totally legitimate in reality, but a potential employer may see it as a sign that you’re more focused on partying than working.

Watch your back.

credit cardBe vigilant. If you use your credit card online, keep a close eye out for purchases that you didn’t make. If you see one, report it to your credit card or bank immediately. They will cancel your card and issue a new one with a different number. All it takes is letting your guard down for a brief moment and a pair of wandering eyes for someone to discover your private information.

  • All it takes is letting your guard down for a brief moment and a pair of wandering eyes for someone to discover your private information.

Have fun, but be careful.

baseball gameIf you’re dating online, trust your instincts. If you’re chatting with someone on a dating site and they begin asking questions that make you uncomfortable or ask you for money or personal information, stop chatting with them immediately. You don’t even need to have an excuse or worry about hurting their feelings. If you make the decision to meet in person, make sure that the place you meet is familiar to you and busy. Meet during daylight hours, if possible, and avoid alcohol on first meeting.

  • Baseball games are a great, safe place for a first date coming from a dating site. There are many, many people, it’s usually during the daylight hours, and it’s original.

If you’re extra careful, you’re doing it right.

vaultYour personal information is private. Keep it that way. Whether you’re entering a simple password, your bank card number, or your social security number, do it cautiously. Make sure that no one is looking over your shoulder. If you’re using a computer at a library or café, take a few extra seconds when you’re finished to make sure that you’ve logged out of all the sites you were visiting.

  • Try to envision all the different parts of your private life — passwords, codes, account numbers — as a large safe in a bank. Then protect it as such.

Bullying has changed.

bullyAlthough cyberbullying occurs primarily with school-aged youth, getting harrassed online can happen to people of any age. Social media presents many opportunities for bullies to make life difficult such as chatting, the ability to post photos containing your likeness, and 24 hour access to your online profile. If you do start to get bullied online, tell someone. Teachers, parents, friends, these are all people to tell. Also, most websites where bullying occurs have ‘block’ features and privacy settings that control how much information other people can see in your page(s). These can help. Finally, you always have the option of taking a break from social networking sites; you’d be surprised how much spare time opens up once you do.

  • Cyberbullying can have a much greater impact on people — especially young people — than most think. Not too long ago, bullying ended when school let out. Now it continues through social media sites.

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