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Security Tips for Staying Safe Online

Some of the latest online threats are coming from social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, Google+, etc.), and violating what some call a "web-of-trust" (e.g. trusting someone because your other Internet acquaintances trusts them, or you believe you know who someone claims to be in real life).

When you're surfing the web, there are some basic things that you can do to protect yourself. 
  • Install the latest patches for your operating system, browser, and other programs.
    • Its also recommended that you use the latest version of the OS, and the different applications you use.
  • Make sure you're using an up-to-date anti-malware software on your computer.
    • If you're running Windows and don't have an anti-malware suite installed on your computer, check out Microsoft Security Essentials its free and works well.
  • Use different passwords for all your different online accounts.
    • Use complex passwords (e.g. more then eight characters, uses letters in different cases, numbers and symbols), and change them regularly.
    • Consider using a password manager like Keepass to create and store this information
  • Don't respond to requests (e.g. email or from posts on a social networking site) for personal information (e.g. social security number, financial information, etc.) from anyone.
  • Use caution when clicking links or opening an attachment, even if it's been sent or posted by a reputable source.
  • Limit the personal information that you share online with social networking sites.
  • While on a social networking sites if a friend or family member asks you for money because they're stuck somewhere or they have some type of personal emergency.  Call that acquaintance and verify that they're really in trouble.
  • Always use a credit card for making any purchases over the Internet. 
    • A credit card offers more protections against theft then something like a debit card.
  • Adjust the privacy settings of your social networking accounts site to help protect your identity.
  • Beware of phishing attacks, where you receive email from a social networking site threatening to delete your account or asking you for your password.
  • Be careful who you "friend" on the social networking sites, unless you really know the person.
    • Thieves have been using data from social networking sites to perform social engineering attacks against you and your friends.


Credit Card Skimmers

If you're not familiar with a credit card skimmer, its a device that can secretly record the magnetic strip on the back of your ATM or credit card and your PIN.  These devices are generally composed of a card reader and fake keypad or camera.

To help protect yourself against these devices, follow the advice below:
  • With your free hand cover the keypad.  This will prevent others and a camera from being able to see your PIN as you enter it.
  • Carefully look for something out of the ordinary or out of place (e.g. a part that is sticking out too far) on the ATM.
    • The quality of these skimmers will vary from simple to complex.  The complex ones can be very difficult to detect visually.
  • Watch out for people who might be hanging around the ATM for a long time.
  • Check your account balances of your financial accounts on a regular basis (at a minimum of once a month).

To see a few examples of what these devices look like, check out this Google search.


ATM Card Traps

ATM card traps are devices that are designed to capture your debit or credit card so it can be retrieved and abused later.  These devices are created out of a thin piece of wire, string or tape that is inserted in the card slot on an ATM, the obstruction will prevent the machine from being able to eject your card.  After you leave in frustration, a thief will come in and retrieve your card.

To help protect yourself against these devices, follow the advice below:

  • If your card gets trapped stay with the card and call your bank or the credit card company right away and cancel the card.
  • Make sure to have the phone number to your bank or the credit card company in your cell phone before something like this happens

Here is an article that contains more information and some pictures of what an ATM card trap looks like.


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