Do you lock your doors at night? Do you buckle up when you get into a car? Do you look both ways before you cross the street? Do you avoid talking to strangers?
If you said “yes” to any of these, then you are like most people in that you care about your personal safety. There are probably even more safety concerns that you may have and do something about every day without giving them much thought. But what always amazes me is how so many people don’t do something about their personal safety in cyber space. As technology evolves more and more, we find ourselves living two lives – life in the real world and life in cyberspace. Social networking sites have given us a new way to connect with people, letting us think that if we don’t have a Facebook or other networking account, we may get left behind.
So what does connecting online have to do with my personal safety? The answer is the risk of oversharing. What I find to be the biggest mistake people make is when they overshare, or post too much information online. People don’t take the time to think about their personal safety and what they are posting on the internet, which is virtually a billboard in cyberspace for everyone to see. Your personal safety in the online world starts before you even click send. It actually starts with the initial set-up.
People need to first and foremost check their privacy settings and find out how information posted on a particular site is going to be seen and displayed. You may want to share some personal information with close friends or family members, but not with the whole world. It’s important that people secure their accounts and use privacy settings to limit access to certain information.
Parents with young children also need to take note of what their child might see navigating online. If you are allowing your child to go online and you are not standing over their shoulder, then they are at risk. Without parental controls set on a family computer, kids are just a few clicks away from seeing graphic or inappropriate material. Be sure to install parental controls and monitoring systems to help protect your kids from venturing into areas of the online world that aren’t suitable, in the same way that you wouldn’t let your kids watch a movie or TV show that isn’t age-appropriate.
Anti-virus programs are other important safety features that everyone should have installed on their computers. Remember to keep programs up to date – otherwise they won’t be fully effective. There have been numerous reports in the news about stolen personal information or hacking of major companies, showing that no one is immune to an attack. Anti-virus programs can help prevent such attacks and avoid people from becoming victims of identity theft.
I advise people to look at their online accounts once a month and just make sure that the correct settings and precautions are in place the way they want, keeping personal information and personal safety secure.
Officer Steve DeWarns
Founder of InternetChildSafety.net
SocialShield Chief Security Officer