Safety on the Internet
The Internet puts the world at your fingertips. You can plan your next vacation, track down an old friend from high school, or buy the new CD from your favorite musician. However, if you are not careful, the Internet has the power to make your life a nightmare.
Here is a list of tips to keep this from happening to you:
- Passwords: NEVER EVER GIVE YOUR PASSWORD TO ANYONE! Once someone obtains your password, they can log onto the Internet via your account, and use your online time, access your e-mail, and much more. If you accidentally give someone your password, or already have, contact your internet service provider immediately to change it. Most services allow you to modify your password very easily, and recommend that you do so monthly.
- Beware of other's eyes: Be aware that information you send over the internet may be intercepted by others. Any time you send information via email or submit data in a form on the world wide web, you run the risk of your privacy being violated. People with extensive knowledge of the internet and its workings, who are more commonly referred to as hackers, can tap into the information you send and read it. This occurs rarely, but is still possible. Recently, the World Wide Web Consortium, along with help from the makers of popular web browsers, created standards for security on the world wide web. These new security standards establish guidelines for the construction of secure web sites. These sites communicate with your web browser using encryption methods. Data that is sent is encrypted much like the signals sent for satellite television are scrambled. These sites permit the exchange of private information, like credit card or social security numbers. While at any web site, there is an icon in the bottom right corner (in Internet Explorer) or the bottom left corner (in Netcape Navigator) of your browser telling you if the current site is secure or not. (Only Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator/Communicator support this feature.) Here are the icons for these programs:
|Security Icons||Not Secure||Secure|
|Microsoft Internet Explorer|
- E-mail: E-mail is 99% safe. The only way someone could see your e-mail (either incoming or outgoing) is that they have your password or have (illegally) gotten into either your computer system/network or are hacking their way into your workplace's network. While the chance your email will be read by someone other than the intended recipient is very small, you should still watch what you type. Don't send credit card numbers, personal information that you don't want anyone else to see, or messages with content that could be harmful to anyone (even your boss or your family.) In a recent study, many corporations admitted monitoring employee computer/internet usage. WATCH WHAT YOU TYPE.
Viruses: Viruses are programs that change other files or attack different parts of your computer's hardware. Some viruses are simply bothersome while others HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO DESTROY YOUR COMPUTER. There are also programs called Trojan horses, and while not technically a virus, they are still potentially deadly. Trojan horses are programs that you knowingly download, thinking that it is some helpful program or fun game. But when run, they are just like a virus.
- Spam: A multi-pupose meat treat? Not on the 'net. Spam is all that mail sent to you from people either (a) trying to tick you off or (b) trying to sell their "product" to you. If you've haven't gotten any spam stuck in your Inbox yet, you're lucky. But if your inbox has eaten a little too much spam, you're probably not too happy about it, and you're computer probably not feeling so well. How do you prevent this from happening to you? Here's a short list of tips:
If you're still receiving those annoying, repetitive messages and can't stop it, you shouldn't have to put up with it much longer. Lawmakers are working on making it illegal to send spam. How soon this will take effect is unknown, but it's coming.
- Be careful where you put your e-mail address. If you've visited some of those sites that ask for your e-mail address for no apparent reason, and you gave it to them, be prepared for some spam. Controlling where your e-mail address goes is the number one way to prevent spam. If you're using AOL, delete your User Profile. That's probably one of the number one places someone will go for a huge list of e-mail addresses.
- Depending on how helpful your ISP (internet service provider) is, it may be able to help. Forward them a spam message, explaining that you're receiving spam and would like their help in stopping it.
- If you use Usenet/Newsgroups, you're also at risk. Under the options menu or in the setup of your Usenet program, change your reply address to something like "firstname.lastname@example.org", so someone looking for your address won't find it.
- If you know who is sending you spam, you may be able to set up an e-mail filter with your e-mail program, that automatically deletes mail with a certain subject or is from a particular address. Most e-mail programs allow this, but if yours doesn't, consider geting a new one.
- If you're still getting spammed, try some anti-spam software. Try Spam Hater, which can help you find out who's sending you all that spam.
Be on guard! A virus can infect your computer if you open an infected file, run an infected program, or read an infected email message. Luckily, viruses are NOT ALL THAT COMMON. However, some files may be infected, and the virus can be transferred to your computer. Viruses are more and more commonly sent though email messages. If you do not know who the message is from, you probably shouldn't read it. Also know that some virus warnings are made up, but better safe than sorry.
If you think your computer may have a virus, (and you do not have anti-virus software that has notified you of this) and you think that it is doing damage, TURN YOUR COMPUTER OFF IMMEDIATELY. (If it is only displaying an annoying message every time you press a button, you're still fairly safe.) Viruses can only do damage while your computer is on. Once it is off, contact any of the following for help:
- Your service provider (by phone). They will probably give you some names of anti-virus software programs, or other services.
- Your computer manufacturer. They may also be able to give you some places to try.
- If you know someone who deals with computers a lot, ask them what they would do in this case, or if they could help you recover from any damage, like lost files.
- Try your local computer store. They will most likely be able to recommend software to try, or other methods.
- If you already own anti-virus software, and it has not alerted you of the virus, check its manual. Anti-virus software needs to be updated, since new viruses are appearing constantly. The manual will most likely give a phone number for software updates, and they may even walk you though the virus-removal process.
As long as you watch your step online, you'll be fine. The internet is a great tool. Just keep your eyes open and be on your guard!