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About> Security > Protect Yourself Online

We recommend the following tips to help keep you safe online.

  • Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date. Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.

  • Set strong passwords. A strong password is at least eight characters in length and includes a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. You should also change your password periodically, such as every 90 days.

  • Be alert for scam emails. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails that may appear to come from a trusted business or friend, but actually are designed to trick you into disclosing private account or login information or into downloading a virus. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with.

    Forward phishing emails to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at spam@uce.gov and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the email.

  • Remember that regular email is not secure. Regular emails are not encrypted and are more like sending a post card. Do not send sensitive personal or financial information unless it is encrypted on a secure website. Look for the padlock symbol to ensure that the site is running in secure mode before you enter confidential personal information.

    Though we will communicate with you using email from time to time, we will never request that you provide sensitive or personal information via email. Don't reply to any email that requests your personal information. Be very suspicious of any email from a business or person that asks for your password, Social Security number, or other highly sensitive information and/or one that sends you personal information and asks you to update or confirm it.

  • Keep personal information personal. Hackers can use social media profiles to figure out your passwords and answer those security questions in the password reset tools. Lock down your privacy settings and avoid posting things like birthdays, addresses, mother’s maiden name, etc. Be wary of requests to connect from people you do not know.

  • Secure your Internet connection. Always protect your home wireless network with a password. When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, be cautious about what information you are sending over it. When your computer is not in use, shut it down or disconnect it from the Internet.

  • Shop safely. Before shopping online, make sure the website uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears on the page.

  • Read website privacy policies. Don't take anything for granted and only do business with companies you know and trust. Always keep in mind that forging emails and creating phony "look alike" websites designed to trick consumers and collect their personal information is not difficult. Make sure that websites on which you transact business post privacy and security statements, and review them carefully.

  • Leave suspicious sites. If you suspect that a website is not what it purports to be, leave the site immediately. Do not follow any of the instructions it presents. For Microsoft® Internet Explorer® (IE) users, setting your browser security setting to "high", a level that makes it more difficult to interact with some websites, is also recommended.

OnGuardOnline.gov is a government website that provides information and valuable resources to help you use the Internet safely. Visit OnGuardOnline.gov to learn more about these and other topics:
• Avoiding Online Scams
• Phishing
• Computer Security

 

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