5 Tips To Help Keep Your Passwords Secret

Treat your passwords with as much care as you treat the information that they protect.

Use strong passwords to log on to your computer and to any site where you enter your credit card number, or any financial or personal information—including social networking sites.

  1. Never provide your password over e-mail or in response to an e-mail request.
    • Internet “phishing” scams use fraudulent e-mail messages to entice you to reveal your user names and passwords, steal your identity, and more. Learn more about phishing scams.
  2. Do not type passwords on computers that you do not control
    • Computers such as those in Internet cafes, computer labs, kiosk systems, conferences, and airport lounges should be considered unsafe for any personal use other than anonymous Internet browsing.
    • Cyber criminals can purchase keystroke logging devices which gather information typed on a computer, including passwords.
  3. Don’t reveal passwords to others
    • Keep your passwords hidden from friends or family members (especially children) who could pass them on to other, less trustworthy individuals.
  4. Protect any recorded passwords
    • Don’t store passwords on a file in your computer, because criminals will look there first.
    • Keep your record of the passwords you use in a safe, secure place.
  5. Use more than one password
    • Use different passwords for different Web sites and services.

11 Tips For Social Networking Safety

Social networking Web sites like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter are services people can use to connect with others to share information like photos, videos, and personal messages.

As the popularity of these social sites grows, so do the risks of using them. Hackers, spammers, virus writers, identity thieves, and other criminals follow the traffic.

Read these tips to help protect yourself when you use social networks.

  1. Use caution when you click links that you receive in messages from your friends on your social Web site. Treat links in messages on these sites as you would links in e-mail messages.
  2. Know what you’ve posted about yourself. A common way that hackers break into financial or other accounts is by clicking the “Forgot your password?” link on the account login page. To break into your account, they search for the answers to your security questions, such as your birthday, home town, high school class, father’s middle name, on your social networking site. If the site allows, make up your own password questions, and don’t draw them from material anyone could find with a quick search.
  3. Don’t trust that a message is really from who it says it’s from. Hackers can break into accounts and send messages that look like they’re from your friends, but aren’t. If you suspect that a message is fraudulent, use an alternate method to contact your friend to find out. This includes invitations to join new social networks.
  4. To avoid giving away e-mail addresses of your friends, do not allow social networking services to scan your e-mail address book. When you join a new social network, you might receive an offer to enter your e-mail address and password to find out if your contacts are on the network. The site might use this information to send e-mail messages to everyone in your contact list or even everyone you’ve ever sent an e-mail message to with that e-mail address. Social networking sites should explain that they’re going to do this, but some do not.
  5. Type the address of your social networking site directly into your browser or use your personal bookmarks. If you click a link to your site through e-mail or another Web site, you might be entering your account name and password into a fake site where your personal information could be stolen.
  6. Be selective about who you accept as a friend on a social network. Identity thieves might create fake profiles in order to get information from you.
  7. Choose your social network carefully. Evaluate the site that you plan to use and make sure you understand the privacy policy. Find out if the site monitors content that people post. You will be providing personal information to this Web site, so use the same criteria that you would to select a site where you enter your credit card.
  8. Assume that everything you put on a social networking site is permanent. Even if you can delete your account, anyone on the Internet can easily print photos or text or save images and videos to a computer.
  9. Be careful about installing extras on your site. Many social networking sites allow you to download third-party applications that let you do more with your personal page. Criminals sometimes use these applications to steal your personal information. To download and use third-party applications safely, take the same safety precautions that you take with any other program or file you download from the Web.
  10. Think twice before you use social networking sites at work.
  11. Talk to your kids about social networking.

10 Tips For Safe Instant Messaging

Communicating by using an instant messaging (IM) program has some of the same security and privacy risks as e-mail, but there are a few dangers that are unique to IM.

  1. Never open pictures, download files, or click links in messages from people you don’t know. If they come from someone you do know, confirm with the sender that the message (and its attachments) is trustworthy. If it’s not, close the instant message.
  2. Be careful when you create a screen name. Each IM program asks you to create a screen name, which is similar to an e-mail address. Your screen name should not provide or allude to personal information. For example, use a nickname such as FootballFan instead of BaltimoreJenny.
  3. Create a barrier against unwanted instant messaging. Do not list your screen name or e-mail address in public areas (such as large Internet directories or online community profiles) or give them to strangers.Some IM services link your screen name to your e-mail address when you register. The easy availability of your e-mail address can result in an increased number of spam and phishing attacks.
  4. Never provide sensitive personal information, such as your credit card numbers or passwords, in an IM conversation.
  5. Block unwanted messages. Most IM programs allow you to build a contact list (also known as a “buddy list”), which is similar to the address book in your e-mail program.You can choose to allow anyone to add you to their contact list or you can restrict your contact list to people you want to hear from. You can also choose to block all incoming messages from everyone except the people on your contact list.
  6. If you decide to meet a stranger that you know only from IM communication, take appropriate safety precautions. For example, do not meet that person alone, (take a friend or parent with you), and always meet and stay in a public place, such as a cafe.
  7. Don’t send personal or private instant messages at work. Your employer might have a right to view those messages.
  8. If you use a public computer, do not log on automatically. If you do, people who use that computer after you can see and use your screen name to log on.
  9. Monitor and limit your children’s use of IM. If you use Windows Vista or Seven, it comes with parental controls built-in.
  10. When you’re not available to receive messages, be careful how you display this information to other users. For example, you might not want everyone on your contact list to know that you’re “Out to Lunch.”