How to Keep Your Personal Information Safe, Both On and Off the Web

In today’s world, it is more important than ever for people to keep their personal information safe. If it gets in the wrong hands it can result in a number of problems, such as loss of privacy, financial loss and the ruination of one’s credit. In addition, failure to keep private information secure can also lead to identity theft and potential legal problems. Before the digital age, a person could more or less keep their private information secure by wisely handling paperwork. With the advent of the Internet, however, ATM cards and electronic methods of storing information, people must take web security seriously in order to maintain their privacy and keep their personal information safe.

Network Security

When a person goes online with their computer, they are immediately making themselves vulnerable to criminals. When using an unsecured WiFi network, cyber-criminals may potentially hack into a person’s computer system. Once they have access to the computer, they may also gain access to important information such as passwords to bank accounts. In addition, criminals can spy on a user’s wireless connection and steal personal information without ever accessing the victim’s computer. To prevent this from occurring it is important to only use secure WiFi networks and to use strong passwords to secure home network systems.

Passwords

The proper use of passwords plays a crucial part when it comes to web security. When passwords are required for bank accounts, shopping websites, etc., it is important to create a strong password that is not easily recognizable or simple to guess. Often this means using a combination of letters and digits. In addition, to prevent hackers from gaining access to accounts, passwords should be changed on a regular basis and the same password should not be used for all accounts.

Surfing and Email Safety

Both surfing the Internet and reading email can potentially allow criminals to get a hold of personal information. When surfing the Internet, a person should exercise caution before clicking on an unknown web page. Some web pages may have viruses that can infect a computer with a single click. These viruses are programs that can steal personal information, such as passwords, from the computer system. Emails and instant messages may also contain hidden code that can steal information from a person’s computer. Efforts should be made not to open any attachments that are not clearly identified or sent from a trusted source.

Keeping Information Safe When Shopping Online

When spending money online, it is crucial that users verify that the website that they are shopping from is legitimate and that it is properly secure. People should avoid spending money on websites that they are not familiar with. Before entering credit card information, the shopper should verify that the page is secured. To do this they should look for markers that identify the page as being safe and secure. The most important symbol to look for appears in the address bar at the top of the web page. In this bar the user should see a “https” at the beginning of the web address. The “s” signifies that the page is secure. If there is not an “s” following the http, the page is not secure and any personal or financial information that is entered is vulnerable to being intercepted by a third party.

Web Hosting Security

When putting up a website, it is important to use a provider that offers secure web hosting. Web hosting reviews can help when it comes to finding a provider that offers the highest degree of web security. By reading web hosting reviews it is possible to gain information about security measures that may be offered by web hosting providers. Any information that is not discovered through web hosting reviews should be investigated by questioning the web host providers directly. Common features that are offered by secure web hosting providers will typically include data backups, Secure Sockets Layer SSL which allows encryption of private information, and Secure File Transfer Protocol SFTP which allows the secure transfer of files that may contain personal information. In addition, a secure web hosting provider should also offer anti-spam or antivirus protection to its customers.

Offline Privacy Precautions

Although the Internet provides many ways for criminals to steal private information, it doesn’t mean that a person’s privacy is any safer offline. People should actively take measurements to keep information such as financial documents, bank account numbers and Social Security Numbers, out of the hands of criminals and identity thieves. To do this it is advisable to avoid throwing away anything with information that could prove valuable to thieves. Documents containing personal information should be shredded before entering a trash receptacle. People should memorize passwords and other important numbers as opposed to carrying them on their person. Another way to keep information safe is for people to pick up their mail in a timely manner, or use a mailbox that can only be opened with a key. Often the mail contains a wealth of information that criminals can steal and use for their benefit.