Assess Your Exposure

Assessment of Our Online Activities Doing an assessment of our online activities is the first important step toward protecting our privacy and identity online. What private and personal information are we storing, sharing and posting on our computer, mobile devices, emails, Websites especially social networking sites, or even cloud storage sites. How safe are these places and who may be able to access them? What are the consequences if our personal information falls into the wrong hands? These are the questions we have to ask our self in order to assess our risks and to help us prepare the necessary actions to protect our self. Installation of the Latest Antivirus Software An Antivirus software is a must-have utility to protect your computer from viruses, spyware, Trojans, and worms. These malicious programs are designed to invade your privacy and steal personal data. As such, it's critical for us to protect our devices with the latest antivirus program(s). There are plenty of free as well as paid versions available. Just be sure to use good antivirus programs from trusted companies. Watch out for fake antivirus programs that use popup messages to tell you that your computer is compromised. Keep in mind that antivirus software only protects our device, not our internet connection but always running up-to-date anti-virus software can help provide the first alert if your system has been compromised while connected to an unsecured network. An alert will be displayed if any known viruses are loaded onto your PC or if there’s any suspicious behavior, such as modifications to registry files. While running anti-virus software might not catch all unauthorized activity, it’s a great way to protect against most attacks. The real benefit of anti-virus protection is directly related to the consequences of not having anti-virus software. The internet is not a secure place by any means, and even the most tech-savvy users have a relatively high likelihood of downloading some form of malware or becoming the victim of an identity-stealing scam just by going online occasionally. Learning just a little bit about the consequences of not having anti-virus protection should be enough to convince everyone they need it. Here are a few important reasons to get top-quality anti-virus protection for your computer: Be Careful On Websites Especially Social Networking Sites Websites especially Social network sites have very vague and complicated privacy policies. In fact, the entire business model can be based on leveraging personal information for advertising and marketing purposes. We should take extra care about what we share and who we share our personal information with on Social Networking Sites. Only add as a “friend” people that you personally know. Review your friends’ list and "unfriend“ people that you don’t personally know or trust. Remove information such as your address, emails, phone number, the year of your birth, and other sensitive information on your profile. Do not share any sensitive and private information on wall postings, messages, or feeds. This goes double for any information about your location and whereabouts. Go to the privacy settings and update the privacy settings to control who can see your status updates, posts, photos, and other personal information. Create a separate email account to use for all your social networking sites. Be careful about using Social Networking Apps. Some of the apps can access lots of your personal information and sell your personal information to other parties. Follow Email Security Rules Email is not secure and can travel over the Internet without protection. Because of this, someone other than the sender may be able to access or tamper with it. You should not send emails that contain personal information. This includes social security number, full name, street address, birth date, mother's maiden name, or any information or combination of information that can be used to personally identify you or someone else If you wish to send your information by email, you need to use encryption software to protect your message and any file you attach to your email. It’s better to exercise caution when opening emails, clicking on links, or downloading attachments. One of the cyber criminals' favorite tricks is to pretend to be your bank or other legitimate businesses and ask you to provide your private and personal information or ask you to click a link to a site where it will ask you to enter your bank user name and password. This is called phishing and it’s quite common. We should delete them when we see such types of emails. Additionally, we do not download any attachments if the email seems suspicious, even if the email is from the person that we know. Your friend's email could be hacked and it could send malicious messages to you and anyone that's on your friend's email contacts. It is better to use secure email service. For free email services like Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail could be considered among the safest. Use a Firewall or Enable Firewall Firewalls help keep hackers from using your computer to send out your personal information without your permission. While anti-virus software scans incoming email and files, a firewall is like a guard, watching for attempts to access your system and blocking communications with sources you don't permit. Your operating system and/or security software likely comes with a pre-installed firewall, but make sure you turn on these features. Make Sure Shopping Sites Are Secured Check out sellers, conduct independent research before you buy from a seller you have never done business with. Some attackers try to trick you by creating malicious websites that appear legitimate, so you should verify the site before supplying any information. Locate and note phone numbers and physical addresses of vendors in case there is a problem with your transaction or your bill. Search for merchant reviews. Make sure the site is legitimate: Before you enter your personal and financial information to make an online transaction, look for signs that the site is secure. This includes a closed padlock on your web browser’s address bar or a URL address that begins with https. This indicates that the purchase is encrypted or secured. Never use unsecured wireless networks to make an online purchase. Protect your personal information: When making a purchase online, be alert to the kinds of information being collected to complete the transaction. Make sure you think it is necessary for the vendor to request that information. Remember, you only need to fill out required fields on a vendors checkout form. Before providing personal or financial information, check the website's privacy policy. Make sure you understand how your information will be stored and used. Use safe payment options: Credit cards are generally the safest option because they allow buyers to seek a credit from the issuer if the product isn’t delivered or isn’t what was ordered. Also, unlike debit cards, credit cards may have a limit on the monetary amount you will be responsible for paying if your information is stolen and used by someone else. Never send cash through the mail or use a money-wiring service because you’ll have no recourse if something goes wrong. Don’t forget to review return policies. You want a no-hassle ability to return items. Keep a paper trail: Print and save records of your online transactions, including the product description, price, online receipt, terms of the sale, and copies of any email exchange with the seller. Read your credit card statements as soon as you get them to make sure there aren’t any unauthorized charges. If there is a discrepancy, call your bank and report it immediately. Turn your computer off when you’re finished shopping: Many people leave their computers running and connected to the Internet all day and night. This gives scammers 24/7 access to your computer to install malware and commit cybercrimes. To be safe, turn off your computer when it's not in use. Be wary of emails requesting information: Attackers may attempt to gather information by sending emails requesting that you confirm purchase or account information. Legitimate businesses will not solicit this type of information through email. Contact the merchant directly if you are alerted to a problem. Use contact information found on your account statement, not in the email. If we are doing any online transactions, we SHOULD make sure the site uses SSL, which is a security protocol that encrypts all our data. What is an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificate? An SSL Certificate adds essential security to online transactions. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It provides a secure connection between internet browsers and websites, allowing you to transmit private data online. Sites secured with SSL display a padlock in the browsers URL and possibly a green address bar if secured by an EV Certificate. The SSL protocol is used by millions of e-Business providers to protect their customers, ensuring their online transactions remain confidential. A web page should use encryption expected to submit confidential data, including credit card details, passwords or any personal information. All web browsers have the ability to interact with secured sites so long as the site's certificate is from a recognized certificate authority, such as Comodo. How can one tell when a site uses SSL? When a digital certificate is installed on a web page, users will see a padlock icon in the browser address bar. When an Extended Validation Certificates is installed on a web site, the address bar will turn green during secure sessions. Users on sites with SSL Certificates will also see https:// in the address bar Who's Behind It? SSL certificates are issued by a certificate authority (CA). A CA will issue a certificate after it has confirmed the identity of the company applying for the certificate, and that the applicant owns the domain named in the certificate. Certificates issued to a website are chained to what is known as a 'trusted root' certificate, which is owned by the CA. These root certificates are embedded in what is known as the 'certificate store' in popular internet browsers such as Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer. If a browser encounters a website certificate which chains to a root in its certificate store, then it allows the https connection to proceed. If the browser encounters a certificate which is not chained to a root in its store, then it will warn the end user that the connection is not trusted and that the user should not submit any confidential information. GUIDELINES TO PROTECT YOUR PASSWORDS Do not use the same password for multiple sites and services (i.e. using same password for your banking site as your email account). One of the reason could be that if unfortunately a bad cyber guy or hacker could get a chance to hack / attack the security of that website or application than consequently your password could be found by the hacker which is the key to your personal details, email accounts. So, do not re-use your password on other sites. This may allow others to steal your password from less secure websites Don't answer "yes" when prompted to save your password to a particular computer's browser. Instead, rely on a strong password committed to memory or stored in a dependable password management program. You should not share your password with others. Treat your password like you would your credit card. Remember, your passwords open up records to your personal information Create a long password (9 or more characters) and include a combination of lower and upper case letters, numbers, symbols, and punctuation marks. Do not use any wellknown information as part of your password. An example of a strong password could be something like this: hi7*Lpk:9s! Change your password every 6 months or so, especially passwords to your banking sites, email accounts, and credit card websites. Multi-factor authentication uses more than one form of authentication to verify an identity. Some examples are voice ID, facial recognition, iris recognition and finger scanning. Two-factor authentication uses a username and password and another form of identification, often times a security code. Over time, more websites will be adopting multi-factor authentication. In some cases, the services may be available, but are not required. Many email services offer two-step verification on an opt-in basis. Ask your financial institution and other online services if they offer multi-factor authentication or additional ways to verify your identity. Use Strong Passwords Your password is your first line of defense. Most people tend to use their names, birthdates, driver’s license numbers or phone numbers to create passwords. The most common, believe it or not, is to use the word “password.” This is a big mistake as it makes it easier for hackers to crack your account. If you have too many passwords to remember, you may want to use a password manager to help you securely manage all your passwords. With password manager, you only have to remember one password. That one password is all you need to enable you to log you in to any site with your saved login credentials. There are also several popular password lockers for your mobile device, which you can have with you at all times. Use of Password Manager A password manager is a software application that helps a user store and organize passwords. Password managers usually store passwords encrypted, requiring the user to create a master password; a single, ideally very strong password which grants the user access to their entire password database. Some password managers store passwords on the user's computer, whereas others store data in the cloud. While the core functionality of a password manager is to securely store large collections of passwords, many provide additional features such as form filling and password generation. Delete or Clear the Tracking Cookies Tracking cookies are small pieces of code that websites attach to your computer to store information about your online activities. If you are concerned about what information about you is collected and how it is used, you should block or remove unwanted cookies on your browsers on a regular basis. By following these guidelines and using the tools recommended above, you can go a long way in protecting your privacy and securing your identity! Protecting Your Personal Health Information If you download your health or service information, make sure it is to a safe and secure location: You may want to download your information to a CD or flash drive. If so, consider purchasing an encrypted flash drive. You may also encrypt or require a password to access a CD. Keep your flash drive or other device in a safe place - just like you do all of your other important information. When you no longer need the information on your flash drive or CD, erase it. If you are using a public computer, the safest way to view your health data is to choose the view/print option for the .TXT file. If you chose to open or download a PDF file, you create a temporary file on the computer. This file can be viewed by others. To reduce the chance of others viewing your health care Document you should not download your data when using public or shared computers. Make sure you take all printed pages from the printer. We know it is easy to get distracted and leave something behind, do not let that something be your personal information. Keep paper copies in a safe and secure place like a locked desk drawer or a personal safe. Destroy paper copies you no longer need by shredding or burning them. If you share paper copies of your records or flash drives with family members or caregivers, make sure that they safeguard your information too! Avoid sharing your password with others. Remember, you control access to your personal health information. Protect it and keep it safe While you may think you know better and that you won't download corrupt files or visit scamming sites, it's important to remember that hackers are creating trickier and trickier viruses every day. Some viruses pretend to be bogus anti-virus software; others come in email messages that are ostensibly from a friend, albeit that friend was an unknowing and unwilling sender; still others come from imposter bank websites or other important institutions with which you really are affiliated. In short, many people who consider themselves tech savvy have been tricked into allowing viruses to access their PCs. Protection from Spyware and Identity Theft Spyware is a kind of software that is specifically designed to infect your computer and spy on you. This means the spyware seeks and steals all your personal information stored on your computer. This can include financial data, passwords, social security numbers, credit card numbers and anything else the spyware can detect. Some spyware is so sophisticated that it can record and save data in real time; this kind of spyware runs silently run in the background, waiting for you to buy something online. As you enter your credit card number to pay for your purchase, the spyware records and saves your payment information, and often transfers your personal and sensitive data to its designer – a hacker in a remote location. These hackers use the information to make purchases with your credit card, perform banking transactions and anything else they can get away with. Identity theft is a major headache for victims, and it can cause you to lose money and receive negative marks on your credit report. The best software that offers anti-virus protection also protects you from spyware. Protection from Spam Spam is incredibly annoying when you're bombarded with emails and ads that you have no interest in whatsoever. What many people do not realize is that if you're bombarded with spam that seems to come from nowhere every time you log in, that spam is most likely the result of a virus stored on your computer. Since anti-virus protection software keeps viruses at bay, installing security software should result in a drastic reduction of spam. There are many types of anti-virus protection applications to choose from, and the best products offer nearly complete shielding from viruses, spyware and spam. Some of our top-rated anti-virus protection software suites are Bit Defender Antivirus Plus, Kaspersky Anti-Virus, Avast, Avira and many others. Keep a clean machine: Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Automate software updates: Many software programs will automatically connect and update to defend against known risks. Turn on automatic updates if that’s an available option. Protect all devices that connect to the Internet: Along with computers, smart phones, gaming systems, and other web-enabled devices also need protection from viruses and malware. Plug & scan: “USBs” and other external devices can be infected by viruses and malware. Use your security software to scan them. When banking and shopping, check to be sure the sites is security enabled. Look for web addresses with “https://” or “http://”, which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information. “Http://” is not secure. Protect your valuable work, music, photos, and other digital information by making an electronic copy and storing it safely. CONCLUSION While you may not be able to prevent this from occurring, the following pointers will definitely reduce your risk: Shred Confidential Documents - Shred all unwanted materials containing sensitive personal information, such as bank statements, credit card receipts, etc. Secure Personal Information - Secure personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates or employ outside help for having service done in your home. Also, do not discuss personal information on a cordless phone. Finally, do not carry your Social Security card. Keep it in a secure place. Avoid Giving Out Personal Information - Don't give out personal information over the phone unless you are sure you know to whom you are speaking. Be wary of promotional scams where you are asked to provide your personal information. Finally, avoid providing your Social Security Number unless absolutely necessary. Send Sensitive Mail at a Public Mailbox - Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes, rather than your unsecured personal mailbox. Be Attentive to Financial Information – Check your financial statements for any suspicious activity and pay attention to your billing cycles. Follow up with financial institutions if you notice anything unusual or have not received your statements. Review your credit report annually and contact creditors and the credit reporting agencies immediately if you notice anything unusual (i.e., new accounts or inquiries). Consider enrolling in a credit bureau monitoring service. These services can provide you with alerts when your credit bureau information is accessed. Protect Your Account from Online Threats – “Phishing and “pharming” use official looking emails or web pages to deceive you into disclosing your personal information. A phishing email tries to direct you to an imposter web site of a legitimate business or financial institution, where it asks for your personal information. Pharming occurs when hackers disrupt the transfer of information on the Internet and point you to a fraudulent Web site. Avoid this trickery by utilizing the following suggestions. Do not provide your vital personal and account information by email or phone unless you initiate the contact. Do not click on any links in a suspicious email, for it may initiate virus installations. Once installed, viruses can use “key logging” to capture your personal identification, passwords and account information. To avoid this problem, please install security software to help protect your personal computer against these security threats.

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