As millions of Americans gather this weekend to spend time with or send gifts and flowers to that special person on Mother's Day, why not shower Mom with some useful suggestions about how to protect the family online. These are tips that will help your family stay safe from cyber criminals not only on Mother's Day but also throughout every day of the year.
12 Tips to Be Safe Online
1) Passwords: Like toothbrushes, don't share them. Change them often.
2) Strong Passwords: Use symbols, numbers and letters. Never include age, gender location. If the kids are in a chat room and someone asks them: ASL? (age, sex, location), teach them to "Stop, Block and Tell (mom or dad)."
3) WI-FI: Home or Business wireless networks (WI-FI) - Enable WPA2 encryption with strong passwords. If your router does not support WPA2 encryption, time to upgrade.
4) Email: Phishing Scams - No replies or click-on-links of emails asking for personal or financial information. If someone asks you to email your credit or debit card - don't. Please, dad, call your bank instead.
5) Scams: If someone is trying to send you lottery winnings, it's too good to be true. Be careful if Cousin Kenny is asking you to send him money because he's stranded in a hotel or in jail in England or Canada, especially if Cousin Kenny is sitting right there at the table.
6) Cyber bullies and cyber predators: Teach your children to immediately "Stop, block and Tell."
7) Browsers: Tweak them and reconfigure them to HTTP (S=Secure) so that your password can't be sniffed and gobbled.
8) Anti-Virus Software: Have it and use it! Auto update both the engine and the data. Don't ignore warnings. Train your family to call out and alert you when a warning presents itself - don't ignore these warnings.
9) Anti-Spyware Software: Have it and use it! As with Anti-Virus don't ignore the warnings - Spyware can capture your data at the point of entry or harvest from your hard drive.
10) Data Backup: Regular data backup(s) should be a part of your security regime. Data includes, but not limited to photos, videos, music, documents, etc. If your device (laptop, PDA, etc.) goes down, your data is safe.
11) Malware/Crimeware: Be wary of 'scareware' pop-ups that announce your computer's compromise and offering you a "free" software to remove - a tried and true technique to have you install malware.
12) Laptops: Treat your laptop like cash. Keep it with you. Keep it locked. Keep passwords separate, not near the laptop or case. Pay attention in airports, especially at security. Use bells and whistles... if you've got an alarm, turn it on. If it's your personal laptop and you fear that your information may be misused by an identity thief, visit the FTC's Identity Theft page for more instructions.
Bonus: Think of online safety and security practices as a basic extension of your family security plan - no less important than smoke detectors, alarm systems, and how to interact w/strangers.
Bonus: Do your children wear their Name & Address on the back of their jacket? Then why post it on a website's profile.
Bonus: Treat security online as you would offline. If someone in a dark alley that you don't know asks for your computer and wants to put something in it, you'd be sensible to just walk away.
Enjoy the special holiday and stay safe!