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Internet Safety

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a young man uses the Internet on his laptop

The Internet is more fraught with digital danger than ever before, which means you may be scared of getting hurt and wish you knew how to protect yourself better. We’re here to help with a few tips! By the time you finishing reading this article, you will have a better idea of how to prevent yourself from being distracted, scammed, tricked or hacked.

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    How do I shop safely online?
    Considering how much stuff we buy online, it’s important to know how to do so without getting ripped off.

    Only buy from sites that you know for certain are legitimate. A good indicator that something is likely not legitimate is that the URL starts with "http" and not an "https". If the ‘s’ is missing, the site isn't using secure layering; you should be wary of what you do on that website. Any information you transmit can easily be visible to others.

    Don’t save your card information in your browser’s Autofill. Lots of websites will save your card info too, which is a bit safer, but determine whether you trust a site before saving anything to it. Truthfully, using your credit or debit card online is a risky endeavor to begin with. Be certain of your purchase before making it. Other things to consider are using only one card for online purchases, avoiding using debit cards for online purchases, and checking your transaction history on your bank account often.

    Research the store or seller and know where the goods are coming from. It is surprising how many people get scammed even while they are interacting through completely secure and legitimate websites. Check feedback on sellers, ask people you know about the site and its reputation for delivery. It is also good to understand what they do with your information by reviewing their privacy policy (usually found in a link at the bottom of the page).
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    How do I avoid downloading malware?
    There's another page that describes malware in more detail, but suffice to say malware is bad news software. Hackers can use malware to steal money and information from you, destroy your data, and a host of other unpleasant things. Fortunately, most malware can only get into your system if you let them. Some simple ways to stop malware from entering your system include:

    Avoid clicking on suspicious links. If you don’t know where it goes, don’t touch it. Hover over it and see what the URL is. Most browsers will show this in the bottom left corner.

    Double check emails that seem suspicious. Make sure the sender address is legit and again, don’t touch suspicious links. For more information on recognizing phishing emails, go to our phishing page . If the email looks malicious, report it!

    Updating your OS and programs for security. It’s annoying, but it’s better than getting robbed because of an obscure exploit. See the software updates page for more information on how to do this.

    Don’t use public computers for sensitive tasks or purchases. They usually have less security for convenience. If you can use it, so can a hacker.

    Check the URL to be sure you went to the webpage you meant to go to. Phishing sites will have a strange looking or a completely different URL. Pay close attention to odd discrepancies, like a misspelled phrase or word, or overlong URLs.

    Hover over links to see where they go before clicking. Most browsers will show the destination URL in the bottom right hand corner of the window.

    Scrutinize the site. If elements of the webpage aren’t in their expected spot, or there are other differences in your usual experience in navigating a website, you might be on a phishing site.
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    How can I make my browser more secure?
    Always keep your browser updated. Security patches happen often and not having one can lead to an infected computer. You can usually tell your browser to update automatically too.

    Examine your Autofill settings. As mentioned above, Autofill is one of the easiest ways for someone to get your personal info if they access your device. While using it isn’t a problem, it is imperative you know what is going into your Autofill.

    Disable pop-ups (if you haven't already). There are sites that use them and you can give those sites permission, but block the rest. Hackers can use them for drive-by downloads, and a lot of the time they’re just annoying.

    Minimize the use of plug-ins and add-ons. While convenient, they are by far the most common way for hackers to get into your browser. Most browsers will have a “Manage plug-ins and add-ons” option in their settings. Uninstall anything that is unnecessary or unknown.

    Change your browser’s security settings. Each browser has different options available, so below are links to the individual support pages for the major browsers. Note that each link will only work for its designated browser.

    Google Chrome
    Microsoft Edge
    Mozilla Firefox
    Apple Safari

    Consider turning off cookies. At least be aware of which cookies you are allowing into your browser. Cookies are a way of websites tracking your activity on them, which can be good for your experience. Many websites are now asking for permission to install cookies because hackers can also use them to track your activity to better determine how to get your stuff, physical or otherwise. You usually should only allow cookies for the site you are currently visiting (if you have determined it is a safe site), and not any third parties. Settings regarding cookies are often found with other security settings as mentioned above.

    Double check what sites have permission to access your camera, microphone and location. You never know when a hacker will break into a site and then spy on you through your own computer. These permissions can typically be found under your browser’s security settings.

LEARN MORE

Learn about the different kinds of malware that exist, and how to prevent, detect and respond to them.
Learn how to change your password, how to create a security question, and how to create passwords that protect your account.
Learn general tips for keeping your physical devices protected from unauthorized access and other physical threats.
Learn why keeping the operating system on your devices up to date is actually a very important security precaution.
Learn what steps you can take to ensure that your social media accounts are protected.
Learn how to identify and avoid scam emails, texts, and more. Phishing scams steal personal info on a regular basis.
Learn how 2-Factor Authentication services like DUO protect your account from hackers and accidental access.
Learn the difference between secured and unsecured Wi-Fi networks and how to be safe when connecting to a wireless network.
Learn about different data storage options and consider which options are best for your needs.
Learn about methods criminals might use to obtain your information by building false trust.
Learn how to be healthy and secure while following shelter-in-place instructions