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Internet Safety Tips - Smart Surfing

Hardware and Software Tips 

  1. Virus Updates - Update your virus protection software regularly, or when a new virus alert is announced. Computer viruses can have a variety of damaging effects, including introducing program code that causes your computer to send out files or other stored information. Be on the alert for security repairs and patches that you can download from your operating system's website.
  2. Security Patches - Install security patches when issued by the software (operating system and browser) vendor. Some applications have the ability to alert you when updates are available for download. 
  3. Firewall Protection - Use a firewall program, especially if you use a high-speed Internet connection like cable, DSL or T1, which leaves your computer connected to the Internet 24-hours-a-day. The firewall program will allow you to stop uninvited guests from accessing your computer. Without it, hackers can take over your computer and access your personal information stored on it or use it to commit other crimes. 
  4. Use a Secure Browser - To guard the security of your online transactions, secure browsers have software that encrypts or scrambles information you send over the Internet. Be sure your browser has the most up-to-date encryption capabilities by using the latest version available from the manufacturer. You also can download some browsers for free over the Internet. When submitting information online, there are two ways to see if you are on a secured website: 
    • Look for the padlock in the lower right (Internet Explorer) corner of your browser window; 
    • Look in the address window above, the letters https:// should appear in front of the address of the form screen (instead of the non-secure http:// address)
  5. Computer Performance - Note any changes in the performance of your computer that might indicate malicious software (or "malware") infections, such as: 
    • A dramatic loss of speed.
    • Changes in the way things appear.
    • Computer locks up so the user is unable to perform any functions.
    • Unexpected rebooting or restarting of your computer.
    • An unexpected request for a one time password (or token) in the middle of an online session.
    • Unusual pop-up messages.
    • New or unexpected toolbars and/or icons.
    • Inability to shut down or restart.
  6. Disconnect Internet - Shut off or disconnect your computer from the Internet when not in use.
  7. Logout - Always log off from your Internet Banking session by using the 'Exit' button.
  8. Computer Disposal - Before you dispose of a computer, delete any personal information. Deleting files using the keyboard or mouse commands may not be enough because the files may stay on the computer's hard drive where they may be easily retrieved. Use a "wipe" utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive. It makes the files unrecoverable.

Downloading & Storage Tips

  1. Download with Caution - Do not download files sent to you by strangers or click on hyperlinks from people you don't know. Opening a file could expose your system to a computer virus or a program that could hijack your modem. 
  2. Storing Financial Information - Do not store financial information on your laptop unless absolutely necessary. If you do, use a strong password with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. 
  3. Automatic Login Information - Do not use an automatic login feature which saves your user name and password so you don't have to enter them each time you login or enter a site. (Turn off through IE - Tools - Internet Options - Content tab - Personal Information section, choose AutoComplete button)
  4. Log Off - Always log off or exit the browser when you're finished. That way, if your computer gets stolen, it's harder for the thief to access your personal information.

Surfing Websites & Shopping Online 

  1. Privacy Policies - Look for website privacy policies. They answer questions about maintaining accuracy, access, security, and control of personal information collected by the site, as well as how information will be used, and whether it will be provided to third parties. If you don't see a privacy policy, consider surfing elsewhere. 
  2. Background Check - Shop only at reputable Internet stores. If you've never heard of the company before, ask around before entering your credit card information. The National Fraud Information Center keeps an eye out for shady Internet dealings and offers consumer tips on its website.
  3. Secure Servers - Most legitimate Internet merchants offer secure transactions. There are two ways to see if you are on a secured website:
    • Look for the padlock in the lower right (Internet Explorer) corner of your browser window; and 
    • Look in the address window above, the letters https:// should appear in front of the address of the form screen (instead of the non-secure http:// address)
  4. Secure Certificates - Legitimate websites maintain current certificates for secure pages or applications (see #3 - padlock or https). To authenticate the site's secure web page, follow these steps: 
    • On the secure web page, click on the File menu and go to Properties 
    • Click on the button at the bottom of the screen called 'Certificates' - it should include the web address (URL) with which the security certificate was issued and the validity dates.
  5. Too Good to Be True - Avoid purchasing a product from a merchant or an auction site where the deal looks 'too good to be true' because it usually is. 
  6. Healthy Skepticism - If you receive an email from an unknown address that bursts with vague promises of wealth and glory, trash it. Since it is easy to fake an email address, pay more attention to the content of the message rather than to the domain it supposedly came from.
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