How to stay safe online: Viruses, Identity Theft, Bullying and more

The internet has become an essential part of our day to day. It allows us to do many activities from the comfort of your own home, like shopping, paying bills, making bank transfers, renting and watching movies, and even being in contact with people living across the world. But despite all the positive aspects of the Internet, it is important to remember the potential risks that lie in this technology.

1. Computer Viruses

Computers are susceptible to viruses that corrupt files and programs. A virus is a program that is installed after it has been downloaded via a corrupted file. If your computer is infected with a virus, symptoms can include difficulty in basic functionality and the possibility of losing information, music and photos stored. You may be able to recover some data if taken to a computer technician.

To protect a computer it is important to download antivirus software that prevents, detects and removes viruses if necessary. In addition, files containing viruses are often sent by email. Never open a file attached to an email if you do not know the sender. Even if you do know the sender, you may want to check with them to confirm that their account was not hacked if the attached file appears suspicious.

In addition, it may be helpful to check with your Internet provider as they may provide a free trial for Anti-Virus Software.

2. Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States, costing victims over $35 billion annually. Identity theft occurs when someone else uses your personally identifying information without your knowledge or permission to obtain credit cards, get wireless or phone products and services, obtain loans and mortgages, get a job, and commit other types of fraudulent or even criminal acts, in your name, leaving you responsible for the consequences.

The identity thief uses key pieces of your information such as Social Security and driver's license numbers to obtain credit, merchandise and services in your name. Many providers now offer additional ways to verify who you are before you do business at that site.

You may also want to check out these 10 Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

3. Social Media

Social media presents both tremendous opportunities and potential risks. Take care of your reputation when using social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace in addition to personal blogs and corporate message boards. Increasingly, employers use your digital footprint on social media sites to vet candidates for employment; this means they can find old information, even if you have erased it.

Be thoughtful about the information, pictures and opinions you share online. Moreover, utilize privacy settings on social media sites to limit the visibility of your information to strangers.

For more information, see “What you should know about proper behavior and responsibility on social networks.”

4. Children Online

Technology plays a vital role in our work, school, and recreational time, and it is an essential developmental tool for children and young people to learn computer literacy skills.

However, it is important to be mindful of protecting children and adolescents against online crimes, including sexual predators and cyber bullying. Talk with your children and inform them of the dangers that are online and also help your children identify safe and credible sites to visit on the Internet.

Install the family computer in a visible area where everyone has easy access to it to help monitor what your children do online. Try to know who their friends are and what are they doing on the Internet. Many internet browsers also offer parents the ability to screen websites, so that sites containing potentially inappropriate content can be password protected.

Remind your children not to share inappropriate content online, to limit the personal information they share with new friends they make online, and to never, ever arrange to meet an online “friend” without a parent present. Be aware of what is new in the world of the Internet by talking with other parents. In the event that a stranger was harassing or bothering your children, they should know that they have to tell their parents to make good decisions.

The FBI provides additional information for cyber protection for children online.

You can also learn about how to stop cyber bullying at http://www.stopbullying.gov/.

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