online identity protectionWe sometimes release information online that we never would otherwise. But just because you’re web-surfing in the privacy of your home doesn’t mean that your personal data is safe. Practice some of these safety tips to protect your identity while you’re online.

Online Safety Tips

Set up a throw-away email address. Not all web accounts that you register for need to have all of your identifying information. You still need a valid email address for you to register, though. A throw-away email address can keep a lot of the spam out of your regular email that comes with registering on some sites.

Guard your personal information jealously. Your identity can’t be compromised if you don’t put it out there. Don’t reveal personal details to people you only know online. Also, don’t enter your personal information on sites promising to enter you to win prizes. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

Turn off cookies in your web browser. Cookies store information about you and your browsing habits, which websites can then use to offer services and target ads toward your preferences. Not all cookies are harmless, though. To protect yourself, turn off cookies in your web browser’s options menu.

Surf differently on public computers. Computers at the library or at work aren’t as private as your home PC. The administrators of those public machines can technically examine any data that you enter on them, which could expose your personal data. Take care which websites you visit and how much information you’ll reveal when you use computers other than your own.

Beware of stealth URLs. Some website addresses may not be what they appear at first glance. Disreputable sites may include a legitimate site-name as part of their URL to trick you into clicking on links to sites containing malware and malicious scripts. Some sites may even mimic the appearance of other sites. Read links and URLs carefully before you click.

Only click links you trust. You never know where a strange link will lead. Most web browsers will show the link URL on the status bar if you hover over the link. Check to be sure that the link is accurate, and don’t click on random links or ads. If you don’t know where it goes, chances are you don’t need to go there anyway.

Only enter sensitive data over secure connections. When you see “https” at the front of a URL in your browser’s address bar, you’re sending information over an encrypted connection. You won’t want to send credit card or other sensitive data over any other type of connection.

Practice good password hygiene. Good passwords often have similar characteristics that make them hard to crack. Change your passwords often, and never write your password down and leave it near your PC.

image by Enigma Software

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