The Internet is a great place,
but like many things, it has its Dark Sides. This is no different than
many things we do daily — driving a car (could be car-jacked), stopping
at a store (could be robbed), participating in a phone survey (could be
a burglar securing info), etc. We deal with these and are generally safe,
IF we are on guard and apply Safety Tips we have learned somewhere. Individuals
who may be concerned about using the Internet, because it is "not safe"
or because we may have heard a horror story or two, should follow the same
course. If you do not already have some Internet Safety Tips, consider
the following items as a "starter" list:
Make sure your browser has strong encryption, particularly when you're
making a financial transaction or passing information you would not like
others to have. You want to ensure that only you and the people you're
doing business with have the info (credit card, personal data, etc.). In
Internet Explorer, check About from the Help menu to see if you have 128-bit
encryption. In Netscape, run Software Updates from the Help menu and click
on Installed Software to check, and update directly. Opera supports 128-bit
automatically. America On Line (AOL) users should download a second browser
to use high encryption.
Spam is generally "shotgun mail" (mass E-Mailings) of unsolicited information,
in hopes of "hitting" a potential target (the E-Mail address of anyone,
secured somehow). To help avoid this, set up and use a free E-Mail account
(Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.) to post messages to news groups and register with
web sites. Some E-Mail providers have spam controls installed that will
automatically delete unauthorized mail.
If you have an "always on" connection, consider turn your computer
off when you're not using it. With DSL (Direct
and cable modems becoming commonplace, the folks looking for computers
to invade can find your computer live on the Internet. Shutting down your
computer, or using firewall software will greatly enhance your computer
Don't give your Social Security number, or other sensitive information,
to anyone online! An address and Social Security number is all anyone needs
to steal your identity. If asked for this (or any information you don't
want to offer) in an online form, leave it blank. Tell the web site that
this information belongs to you.
Use a free E-Mail account to identify yourself. It is usually best to choose
an E-Mail identifier that does not reveal who you are. BSmith or SmithB
would be better than BobSmith. NEVER open an attachment if you don't
know who it is from, and then it should be verified - some code you have
worked out with the person that is a part of the message body or an E-Mail
to the person asking if they sent the attachment. Otherwise you may get
a virus, and you certainly won't be happy with the results!
If you Chat online or use Chat Rooms, be very careful what name you chose
and what information you give out. Essentially, everyone is wearing a mask,
so you don't know who they really are or what they really want. It is especially
important to caution young people about this aspect of the Internet. Turn
off your instant messenger when you're not using it.
Don't install any software if you do not know what it will do. This is
the quickest way to have your system "trashed" by some sick minded programmer.
Consider having one computer to access the Internet and one computer to
do all your other work. Usually your old computer with a fast modem, browser,
virus checkers, and maybe a few other selected programs (with no other
files on the computer) will work for the internet computer. Once you are
sure the files you have obtained from the Internet are "safe," transfer
then to the other computer, if needed, via disk, network (connected when
you transfer and unconnected after finished), CD-RW, or other suitable
means. That way, no one will be tempted to steal anything from the Internet
There are many other "Safety Tips" that would be worth considering.
You will add to the list as you read about and use the Internet, and interact
with other computer users. These are provided to help raise the level of
Internet "Safety" awareness.