In a world in which staying offline is not an option and cybercrime online is on the rise, internet safety is more important than ever!  With the contents of our bank accounts and our personal identities at stake, what can we do to maintain the “safety edge” and help ensure we’re not running in to a bramble of thieves?  Here are suggestions and best-practices (in no particular order) you can use to help (including some hyperlinks to useful products).

1. Keep your computer software up to date.  For the majority of computer users using Windows 7, be sure Automatic Updates are turned ON.  For Mac users, follow Apple’s recommended update procedures.  For programs and applications, you can regularly check each one to be sure it is up to date (tedious and time-consuming) or you can enlist the help of an update checker such as Secunia Personal Software Inspector.  This program regularly and automatically checks all your installed programs for updates and offers to install the updates for you.

2. Keep your malware (anti-virus) scanner up to date and be sure it runs regularly.  If you don’t have a reputable scanner, try Microsoft’s free Security Essentials.  It’s rated as one of the best.  Also, you should run a stand-alone (web-based) scanner on occasion, such as ESET’s Online Scanner.

3. Steer clear of web sites that historically have a high potential for infectious malware.  Themes include: Adult, Gambling and Hate.

4. Don’t open email, especially email attachments, from unknown sources.

5. Passwords should be yours alone, so be sure you protect them and never give them to anyone else.  To ensure the highest protection from having passwords discovered by a thief, take these protective steps:
–Use long passwords or pass phrases and make them complex by including upper case letters, numbers and special symbols.
–Change passwords occasionally, even if the service does not require a change.
–Don’t use the same password on multiple accounts.
–Use a password vault to manage your passwords.  This way, you only have to remember the one that opens the vault — and be sure that this is one of the most complex of all.  We recommend you try KeePass — it’s free and there are versions for nearly every computer and smartphone.

Stay tuned for PART 2 of this helpful series about protecting your identity and property online!