Monday, March 22, 2010

Cyber Safety--Be Careful Out There!

Last week, several of us participated in a video conference offered through Magpi entitled “The Educators Role In Safe Computing.” Below are some tips on protecting your computer, as well as your identity and personal information, both at home and at school.

  • Create a strong password. Use at least 8 characters made up of a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. (Example: Mathew12!goals) Choose a new password every 60 days.
  • Lock your computer before you walk away. On a PC, press Alt-Control-Delete. One of the options that comes up is “Lock Computer.” On a Mac, consider activating your screensaver using a “hot corner.” To do this, open the Desktop & Screen Saver System Preferences panel, activate the Screen Saver tab, and click the Hot Corners button. Decide which corner of your screen you’d like to use, then click the corresponding pop-up menu and select Start Screen Saver. Now when it’s time to walk away, just fling your mouse into that corner of the screen, and you’ll trigger the screen saver. (http://www.macworld.com/article/49080/2006/01/lockscreen.html)
  • Don’t use the same username/password combination on secure accounts (like your bank’s web site) that you use on social networking sites like Facebook.
  • Use caution when opening unexpected email.
  • Back up your data regularly.
  • Update your anti-virus program and virus definitions as well as your anti-spyware and anti-malware software regularly.
  • Enable your pop-up blocker.
  • Update your computer with the latest security patches for the software and operating system you use. (Install the “Windows updates.”)
  • Beware of “shoulder surfing.” Be sure that no one is looking over your shoulder when you enter usernames and passwords either on your computer or while using your debit card.
  • Before entering credit card or other personal information on a web site, be sure the URL starts with https. Alternatively, look for a padlock in the bottom right of the page.

Identity theft is another real concern when entering personal information on Internet sites. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s web site has guidelines for avoiding identity theft and helpful tips to follow if you are a victim.

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