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The uses for the Internet continue to grow, be it for shopping, keeping in touch, learning, watching, blogging, writing, creating, and a million other things. The number of Internet users continues to increase with each passing year and just like most other things in this world, many people have found ways to steal, exploit, and con others on the Internet. Unscrupulous people will always be a part of life- and since we cant change that fact- here are some of our best tips to help you protect yourself and your personal information.

If you want to remain protected, you must take the first step. No one else can protect your info- and no one else is responsible for it.  Taking personal responsibility is instrumental in staying secure. Here are the top 10 tips that you can implement to avoid becoming a victim of cyber-crime:

Social Media

Social networking has become a great way to stay in touch with old friends and share your hopes and dreams; however unfortunately many people leave up personal information on their profiles and / or make private information public without realizing it. Access your profile from another computer without logging in every once in a while and see how much info you can get on yourself- you might just be surprised. Think twice before giving your phone number, personal e-mail address, residential address, workplace related information etc. You wouldn’t give this info to a stranger- so don’t post it blindly on the internet. At the very least verify your privacy settings every once and a while.

Secure Your Computer

You should always have a good anti-virus. If you don’t feel like buying one- and lets face it who does nowadays? – AVG offers a good free anti virus program.  Microsoft also offers a free product called “Security Essentials” which I have also found to be quite good. Turn on your firewall and make sure you block connections from unknown sources. Spybot Search and Destroy offers excellent protection from spyware, malware, scare-ware and associated threats- and best of all its free.

Secure Your Phone

Most people have smartphones nowadays- which can store horrifying amounts of personal data- which pose a real security nightmare if they are ever lost or stolen.  Set a password on your phone, and back up your data regularly.  There are also programs you can download that will allow you to nuke your phone if it is ever lost or stolen- safeguarding your data. If you download any software or applications, ensure they come from reputable companies.

Use Strong Passwords

Nowadays the average person has many different passwords.  This can get confusing- but as a general rule don’t just use the same password over and over. It is important to have strong and diverse passwords. Make sure to use letters, special characters and numbers. Dont pick a word, or a combination of any of the 3 most common passwords; love, god, and password.  This includes all variations such as P@ssword1, or lov3. You should also change your passwords regularly.

Think Before you Click

You will see many links while browsing; not all are reputable. Attachments from unknown sources or even known sources could be harmful in e-mails as well. Occasionally peoples email accounts get hacked- make sure you know what it is before you open it.

Don’t Fall for Scams

Easier said than done- however as a general rule if it sounds too good to be true- it probably is. E-mails claiming that you have won money, a prize, or a free iPad are probably not true. Don’t respond, click links or even open these emails if you can help it- just mark them as spam and move on.

Protect your Personal Information

If a website asks you for personal info or financial information, double-check its authenticity before providing any. Don’t follow links received in emails to your financial institutions either- navigate to their websites directly yourself.

Encrypt Your Personal Data

If you have any sensitive information or files or records in your system, make sure to encrypt them a password protected archive. There are simple programs you can download that will create an encrypted partition on your drive. Also, complete regular backups of your important data and store those backups in a secure location.

Secure Wi-Fi Network

If you use a wireless router at home- put a password on it. Also- make sure the password is not WEP encryption as WEP is easily defeated by brute force attacks. WPA or WPA2 at a minimum.

Seek Help When It’s Needed

Cyber-crime is now a punishable offense and police will prosecute it. However; due to the complex nature of internet crime- and the ease with which computers can jump jurisdictions- it is notoriously difficult to prosecute. However police will prosecute if the crime is serious enough- or in the case of identify theft.  Identity theft is taken very seriously by credit card companies and online merchants alike- so report it, because these companies have the resources to actually track down and prosecute criminals.

I hope these tips will help you to stay safe while browsing online. If you have any other tips or information to share, please feel free to do so.

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