Staying safe online is important to everyone, of all ages everywhere. Read about staying safe at: Stay Safe Online.org. Plus, here are some tips from a non-professional (me).
1. Make sure that your browser(s) and readers, flash players, etc… are the latest versions.
Browsers are the medium we use to get online. They need to be the most current versions. Why? Because out-of-date browsers are not updated any longer. Windows updates regularly, and our computers need to be set to allow important Windows Updates. Some updates are optional, but the important ones need to be allowed for sure. For Mac users, Safari also updates regularly. Viruses look for out-of-date applications that they can sneak into. This is always a bad thing. Windows will prompt you when the latest browser versions are available, and they are free. Out-of-date applications of other programs such as flash players and reading programs need to be updated regularly as well. To see which browser version(s) you are currently running, visit this link from every browser that you use, and it will tell you quickly and for free: What Is My Browser.com. That link also instructs on how to update. Browsers do update regularly, so check the link often.
*If your browser(s) are not updated, you may be unable to participate in the functions of updated sites*
2.Never post a mailto: link or a similar, “[at] dot com” online.
Because not all people are friendly, and spyware/bots also look for such loops to enter email accounts. Mailto: creates a direct link (called a hyperlink) to your email account. While “[at] dot com” or the like is not a link, most people know what that means. It is still revealing. Many viruses enter computers via email accounts. Some people think that having a special email account to handle emails is safe. Not so, because if you do get attacked on that special email account it will still affect your computer (and your smartphone that is connected to that account). Consider using a contact form. Some are free, others are paid-for. Use caution in deciding which emails to open, whom you reply to, and the information you include in your reply. Being a “No Reply Blogger” is also a necessary safety measure. Yes, it will annoy some people. I get questioned about it quite often. Being a “No Reply Blogger” is not intended to offend anyone or to appear unsociable. It is a wise safety measure. Your email address should never be made available to the public.
3. Never post your physical address or other identifying information online.
Because this could inadvertently lead a not-well-intentioned person directly to you and your family.
4. Never post online that you are going to be away from or are currently away from home, ie going on a vacation.
Because this is telling the world wide web that your house is likely unattended, perfect for burglars.
5. Never open suspicious emails. Beware of emails addressed to multiple recipients.
Because these emails often contain viruses, and spyware often sends emails in automated batches.
6. Use caution when downloading free files from the internet.
Because many free files are riddled with viruses simply due to the large number of people who have visited the link and/or downloaded the file. This is not to say the creator of the file is at blame; one of the many visitors/downloaders likely unintentionally or intentionally infected the file. Malware is often hidden in free downloads, and can contain hundreds of files that can do things like change your home page and search engine. Sometimes these files cannot be removed, and at the least your hijacked computer will have to be reset and lose all of your pictures, passwords, everything. At the worse, the computer could be crashed and unable to be repaired. A stranger now knows all of your personal information, and has complete control of it all. Real-time scanning will warn you to not download the file.
*What to do immediately if you do get hacked:*
This secure website offers excellent advice for staying safe and what to do if hacked:
Stay Safe Online: Securing Key Accounts & Devices
*If you already have a reputable security system, run a full complete scan of your computer and smartphone to remove viruses and such. This could take a while, depending upon how fast your internet service is, what type of connection you have, and how many files you have. Be patient, as it is necessary and worth the wait. If your computer is totally crashed and cannot perform any activity, get it to a reputable repair shop asap*
2. REMOVE all mailto: links and “[at] dot com” or the like from every place online that you have them: blogs, your Blogger Profile page, web stores, social networks, etc…
3. Change email account(s) password(s).
4. Change your social networks accounts passwords.
5. If your blog uses that same email account, change your password in your admin dashboard for Blogger, WordPress, or what ever blogging platform you use. Do this on every platform that you blog on.
6. If your web store uses that same email account, change your password in your admin dashboard.
7. Consider using the easy, free Email Me Form.com, or one of the other free contact forms places. There are also ones that you can pay for, if you so choose. Use caution in deciding which emails to open, whom you reply to and what information you give to them.
8. Changing your email passwords from time to time on your computer and smartphone is also very smart. Choose passwords that are not obvious, and do not contain personal information. Use long strands of 8+ upper and lower case letters, symbols and numbers. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
9. If you do not already have one, purchase a reputable security system asap that includes real-time scanning plus a firewall that protects your email accounts. Your smartphone also needs a security system, because it is connected to your email account that you access via your computer. Many companies offer coverage for all of your devices for one price. Sometimes these features are not included with free trial versions.
10. Purchase an external hard drive or cloud storage to save your computer files in case of a future crash.
It is also a great idea to take your computer and smartphone to a reputable repair shop asap, even if it is not crashed. While there is no 100% sure way to stop all hacking, taking simple steps can protect us from falling prey. Why provide an ease for hackers to mess us up? Let’s all make it really DIFFICULT for them! We should protect our email addresses with the same care that we do our physical addresses and other personal information.
Sometimes emails will be sent to you from dangerous sources. This is why you need a firewall to screen your email accounts. As a last resort, they will call your land line or mobile phone and tell you that “your computer is at risk” or ask you if you own a computer or who your IP (Internet provider) is. Do not answer these people, confirm your name, confirm that you do own a computer, or otherwise fall for these dangerous ploys that often cause irreparable damage to your computer and your personal information/security. Getting a new computer or repairing your computer will still not remove your personal information from people who never should have had it to begin with. Please use caution and stay aware.