Simple Steps to Protect Your Information Online


Summer 2012 — Security News and Advice

Social networks and new online services make it easy to share the details of our lives, perhaps too easily. With just a few clicks, posts and messages, you can give away enough personal information to compromise your privacy and even open yourself up to identity theft.

That’s why it’s important to keep track of the information you share online and to take steps to protect yourself.

Here are some tips to increase your privacy and diminish your chances of falling victim to identity theft.

  • Adjust your social network privacy settings—Social networking sites like Facebook have made it easier for you to control how your information is shared. Simply go into your privacy settings and select who can see your information (“friends” versus “everyone”, for example), and how apps and websites share your information.
    No matter which social networking sites you use, by going into your settings and selecting the highest levels of security, you can improve your privacy.
  • Be cautious when using social networks—Only friend people you know and trust in real life, since an identity thief could pose as a friend and start collecting information about you.
    Also, remember to think before you post. Although it may be tempting to share the details of your life, really think about what kinds of information you are posting online, and what could happen if that information fell into the wrong hands. You should also be cautious when using geolocation services. Sharing your exact location in real time is not always safe. It could give predators key information about the places you frequent.
    Likewise, sharing personal information such as the place where you grew up, your birth date and your pet’s name may seem harmless, but this type of information is often used for online banking “challenge” questions, and sharing it could make it easier for someone to hack your account and commit identity theft.
  • Change your passwords frequently—In addition to choosing passwords that are difficult to guess (try to make them at least eight characters long and a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols), remember to regularly change your passwords. This limits the amount of time lost or stolen password can be used by someone else. Also, avoid reusing passwords on different websites. If a cybercriminal manages to guess your password, they could gain access to several of your accounts. For more information on how to create strong, memorable passwords, read our tips and tricks
  • Close old accounts that you don’t use anymore—Don’t risk leaving personal data in an old account, such as a MySpace page you haven’t used in years, or on an online dating site you no longer need. The account could be hacked and you may not even know it. Instead, close the accounts you don’t use and delete as much personal information from them as possible.
  • When signing up for new account or service, always read the privacy policy—Check to see how much of your information is shared and if there is any opportunity to opt-out of sharing. Some services share information with partners, which means that your information could wind up with third parties and you could receive more spam.
  • Only send personal data over a secure network—Avoid sending personal information over free Wi-Fi in hotels and cafes, since it is difficult to tell if these networks use encryption to scramble your data and keep it from being read by unauthorized third parties.

Small, simple changes can do a lot to improve your overall Internet security and protect you from identity theft. In addition to following the above tips, you should also consider installing comprehensive security software, such as McAfee Total Protection™, which can protect you against malware, spyware, and spam, as well as safeguard your personal data and protect you from identity thieves.

Just being aware of the different ways you can protect your personal information can go a long way in increasing your Internet security and your peace of mind.

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