The Internet: Is It Putting You at Risk?

There was a time when “the Internet” was synonymous with anonymity. You’d read comments like: “Dude, it’s the internet. Who cares?” or “What difference does it make? It’s just the internet.” Usually this was in response to some outrageous bit of flaming or trolling.

That world no longer exists. Nowadays, with Facebook, the ability to Google into anyone’s deep, dark past, and online privacy at war with companies’ desires to gather every personal bit of info so they can serve you better ads, we live under a microscope. People lose their jobs because of pictures someone else tagged them in. We check in with our phones and leave a digital trail of breadcrumbs to become the mayor of Burger Palace. We pay our bills online, read our papers online, and search for new jobs online.

And, somewhere, there’s a record of every bit of it.

We need to be aware of 1.) protecting our privacy and 2.) what sort of image we project online.

This post will deal with number one. We’ll address number two later.

First, beware of tracking cookies. You can’t do much online without enabling cookies in your browser. So find a good program to rid yourself of the pests. While you’re at it, lose the spyware, too.

Next, make sure your privacy options are at a safe level. Here’s how to do it on Facebook, email, and just in general.

Third, in the shutting the barn door after the horse escapes category, always enable security on your wireless router. You can always buy a dual-band router, make use of an old router, or download a free program to allow cafe-style guest access.

Parting tips:

  • Discuss online privacy with your kids. I know I keep banging heads with my 14-year-old, not about privacy settings but about assuming any level of privacy when sharing.
  • Never use the password you use around the web as the same password for your email. It’s a sad fact, but when a hacker gets your password for Facebook or ANY site you use, he can usually use that same password to log into your email address. Once that happens, you’re just a few lost password requests away from financial ruin.
  • Consider using a program like LastPass to generate random passwords for sites and store them in an encrypted file on your computer.
  • Never, ever assume your data is safe. Every site, every program we trust, we are taking a gamble. Hedge your bets by being knowledgeable about the risks.

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