How to Stay Safe on the Internet (And Your Smartphone)

In a world run by computers, and everyone connected by the power of the internet, we tend to get a bit complacent about our virtual security.  We can easily forget that, for every new technological advancement made, there are that many more ways of violating our privacy, infecting our computers, virtually stalking our families, and stealing our identities.

Our kids are easy targets.  After all, they begin using computers both at home and in the classroom at a very young age these days.  My daughter, now 11, has her own laptop both at our home and at her dad’s house.  I heard an interesting interview on a local Atlanta radio station, Q100, the other day and it really got my mommy ears perked up.  It’s only right that I pass this information along to you, whether a parent or not, to safeguard yourself and your family from internet threats.

If you spend any time on the internet, you probably know that it’s a good idea to have some kind of anti-virus protection on your computer.  (If you don’t have anti-virus protection on your computer, stop reading and download one now.)

There are several precautions to take to protect your computer and personal information, in addition to anti-virus software.  If your children are old enough to use a computer, it’s a good idea to have a serious discussion with them about computer etiquette, and let them know what they can and cannot do on the computer to protect your family.  Here are a few points to discuss:

Essentially, phishing is a process of gaining personal information in order to steal your identity.  Let’s say you receive an email from your bank or credit card company.  In this email, you are notified that your account will be closed unless you take immediate action – either by responding with confidential account information or by sending funds in one way or another.  If you respond in any way, you are handing over your personal and financial information to hackers.

How to protect your family:  Be cautious of emails you receive, and let your kids know to only open emails from people you approve.  And never, ever, under any circumstances, click on any links in these emails.  If you aren’t sure if it’s legit, contact the company who allegedly sent the email and ask them to monitor your accounts for the next few weeks.

Hackers are thieves in the virtual world.  They break into computer systems and steal information, like passwords, account numbers, even email addresses.  They can use this information in a variety of ways, from stealing money from your accounts to stealing confidential information for further hacking of other people’s information.

How to protect your family:  Use a different password for different logins.  While it’s very convenient to use the same or similar password for all of our online accounts, this makes it very easy for hackers to gain access.  Think of all of your social media accounts, for example.  If you are hacked on Facebook, and use the same password for your online banking, you have opened the door for hackers to come in.

Also, never share your login information with people outside of your immediate family.  I will go one step further to say, never share your login information with your children.  Have a separate login for them to use on any social media sites AND MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ACCESS TO THEIR ACCOUNTS AT ALL TIMES.

Viruses attach themselves to a file or website and, when accessed by you, they spread to other files on your computer.  Computer viruses are on the rise.  In 2011, Symantec (the company who brings you Norton Anti-virus protection) blocked 5.5 billion malware attacks, an 81% increase over 2010.  Also, there were 403 million new variants of malware created in 2011. {Source}

How to protect your family:  In addition to installing anti-virus and anti-malware software on your computer, be cautious of your internet surfing.  Only visit trusted sites, and don’t click on anything that looks suspicious.  Educate your children on the risks of computer viruses and monitor their computer usage.

A botnet is a series of programs that run on your computer and can perform a series of tasks without your knowledge or permission.  The short version:  cyber-stalking and virtual voyeurism.  If you have a camera on your computer, for example, a botnet can monitor anything going on in front of that camera even if you don’t know it’s on.  Here’s a startling statistic:  2.2 million computers in the US are infected right now and don’t know it.  {Source}

How to protect your family:  Botnets begin running on your computer due to clicking a link in an email, usually.  Botnets can access anything and everything on your computer and perform any task they want.  Be aware of emails you receive and open.  Only visit trusted sites.  Again, monitor what your kids are doing on the computer and make them aware of the risks.

For more information, I urge you to listen to the interview of Chris Wagoner, a computer and internet investigator, on Q100 in Atlanta.  He is very knowledgeable and offers some great information to help you safeguard your computer, including a list of resources.

Additional protection: Safeguard your smartphone!  Smartphones are mini computers and need anti-virus protection as well.  Visit the Google Play Store for Android or the App Store for iPhones and download one of several free anti-virus programs.  I use Norton on my phone and Avast on my computer.

For more information, here are a few links to check out:

We had a family internet safety meeting over the weekend to go over some safety tips for Marley.  I encourage you to do the same with your child.

Any tips or helpful information that you would like to share?

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I'm Kirsten & I'm happy you're here! Sweet Tea & Saving Grace supports women seeking to find balance in the busy, deepen their faith, and instill joy and love in their homes, lives, and blogs by providing encouraging and inspiring content and valuable resources. My prayer is for you to leave here better than when you came. Be blessed!