Being Safe and Secure Online

I know you keep hearing about online security and soon you will say, if you haven’t already, that I am like a broken record.  But in today’s world, one cannot be too safe or secure. 

Cookies on the internet are tiny files that are transferred to your computer from websites you visit.  This is a way that websites and online services collect and use information about you.  Some websites will have a popup message that the site uses cookies and you can allow or block the cookies from being used. However, each web browser has a different process for enabling cookies. 

When you are connected to the internet via Wi-Fi, there is a vulnerability which exists.  To be more secure, consider installing a virtual private network (VPN) that will work in conjunction with your web browser to encrypt all information as it leaves your computer or mobile device. 

Passwords – how many do you have?  Are they simple or complex?  Would it be likely someone could easily find out your password?  Skip the numeral sequence or repetition, abc’s, your name, the name of a family member, etc.  The best passwords include numbers and letters – both upper and lower case as well as a symbol or two.  Think of a catchy phrase or sentence that you like and recreate it.  For example – “I like to go to the seashore” could be “Ilk2go2cshore!”.  Get creative. 

When you are shopping online, make certain that the website address is secure with “https” being displayed at the beginning of the website address.  If there is only “http”, then the site may be a bogus website designed to look like the site you are attempting to log into.  If the address doesn’t have the “https”, close your browser, reopen and manually type in the website you are attempting to find. 

You enjoy online shopping. Which is better to use?  A credit card or a debit card?  It is safer to use a credit card because if there is a problem with your purchase or the merchant, you can call the credit card issuer and file a dispute.  Your liability is limited to usually $50.00 and most credit card companies will most likely waive that.  Using a debit card does not provide you with the ability to file a dispute. 

If you don’t use social media, you avoid the risks associated with it.  If you do, don’t post a photo where you are looking directly at the camera.  The picture could be used to forge a passport or driver’s license.  Also, don’t post photos showing that you are traveling.  Wait until you get home to post pictures or information about your trip.  Posting while traveling could be a temptation for someone to break into your home. 

Just as you lock the doors to your home or car, take steps to be secure on the internet. 


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About the Author

Kay Sowa is a paralegal in the Trusts and Estates Group at Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent, an Accredited Estate Planner®, and a Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor. She oversees the trust and estate administration practice for the firm. She is an accomplished author and lecturer who has frequently spoken on behalf of a number of organizations including the National Business Institute and the Institute of Paralegal Education.

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