You don't have to be a Rocket Scientist to stay safe online.
Simply following a few basic safety tips can minimize your risk of being hacked; having your identity stolen; or accidently exposing your children to adult content on the Web.
How? Take the time to understand the threats and how to respond to them. Realize that the Internet is a dangerous place with people you have never met who want your stuff, time, money, kids affection & ideas. There is lots of good stuff online, but we need to responsible, educated & wise in cyberspace as we are in the real world.
If I've heard it once, I've heard it a dozen times: "I don't really have anything important on my computer" - That's simply not true! It's like leaving the keys in your car ignition with the windows rolled down. The thief is likely to use your auto as a getaway car in a bank robbery.
Do you bank online? Your passwords can be stolen!
Do you send email to friends & family? Your addresses can be harvested for spam!
Do you have family photos? Your pictures can be posted online for strangers to view!
Almost any data can be exploited or sold, and even if you really have nothing but an empty PC connected to the Internet, it's important to the bad guys who can use it as a Botnet weapon of mass disruption (a zombie as it were) without your permission or knowledge. Your compromised machine can be used to attack innocent victims & the FBI will track the attack to your house, not the attacker’s.
In fact many of the problems with cyberthreats to families are not the result of a sophisticated hacker attack or advanced targeted viruses. They are the result of home users not taking the time to follow basic online safety rules that can protect their family.
What can you do?
1. Understand the 10 Immutable Laws of Security:
Law #1: If a bad guy can persuade you to run his program on your computer, it's not your computer anymore
Law #2: If a bad guy can alter the operating system on your computer, it's not your computer anymore
Law #3: If a bad guy has unrestricted physical access to your computer, it's not your computer anymore
Law #4: If you allow a bad guy to upload programs to your website, it's not your website any more
Law #5: Weak passwords trump strong security
Law #6: A computer is only as secure as the administrator is trustworthy
Law #7: Encrypted data is only as secure as the decryption key
Law #8: An out of date virus scanner is only marginally better than no virus scanner at all
Law #9: Absolute anonymity isn't practical, in real life or on the Web
Law #10: Technology is not a panacea
2. Discover more safety online at the FBI's Scams and Safety site:
Visit Microsoft's "Protect Your Family" site:
Review online safety tips from StaySafe.org:
4. Use Parental Controls & Internet filters to protect your kids from potentially harmful or unwanted Internet content.
-Use built-in Windows Vista Parental Controls
-Use 3rd party filters such as InternetSafety.com, CyberPatrol.com or NetNanny
5. Don't talk to strangers or give out personally identifiable information to anyone you don't trust:
-Parents often teach their kids to not talk to strangers in real life, and cyberspace should be no different!
7. Patch! Patch! Patch! Microsoft makes it easy to keep security patches up-to-date with Automatic Updates, WSUS or Microsoft Updates
-But don't forget to keep all your 3rd party applications, antivirus and backup software up-to-date as well
-An un-patched app gives the bad guys an open door into your computer regardless of you antivirus solution or Windows updates.
8. Backup your important files on a regular basis and keep those files in a separate location than your computer (in the car, at work etc...)
-You can burn important files to CD, use the built-in backup software, 3rd party backup software or use an online file service that you trust.
-Windows Live Folders lets you have password protected storage on the Internet that you can secure or share with others.
-Check it out - it’s FREE! - http://folders.live.com/
9. Keep your antivirus signatures up-to-date.
-but don't expect antivirus to protect you if you don't follow these other recommendations
10. Don't click on e-mail attachments even from people you trust until you verify that the attachment is trustworthy and the user meant to send it.
-Remember though, just because your friend clicked on the "Flying Pig" and laughed doesn't mean they were not secretly infected with a virus.
-Verify the source of the attachment - where did they get it? If you don't know the original source or author, please be careful.
Many of these processes are automatic and easy, or can be with a little time invested up-front, but the return on investment is peace of mind.
Be responsible & take the time to protect your family & stay safe online!