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Navigating Safely: Your Online World

It’s been more than a year living in the “new normal” environment of online shopping. There’s been inconsistent information available about when (if ever) this trend might subside. It’s a good time to review the best practices to keep yourself and your child(ren) safe when interacting with others or shopping online.

Trust is good; Supervision is better

When we let our child(ren) access the internet to search or shop we’re empowering them in a very important way; however, we often forget that we’re allowing them to access the internet. It’s not a right, it’s a privilege. While it’s great to give the m freedom to explore, it’s critical that we also check in from time to time. Make sure that everything is okay. For many of us this can be difficult. Let’s face it, most kids know more about the internet than we do. That doesn’t negate your responsibility to check in. Ask if there is anything inappropriate or strange going on with their experience.

Less is more.

When searching for information or shopping for a product, we should bear in mind that this should not be more involved than shopping in the store. Sure, there are some stores that want your name, address, postal code, date of birth, blood type, cousin’s pet monkey’s middle name, etc. But when we go into those stores in real life, we realize that they want that information to build a database. It’s almost never a requirement to provide all of that information. Fill in the stuff that makes sense. Ignore the stuff that isn’t required. If the process is too complicated online, order by phone or from another supplier.

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Review your online privacy settings periodically.

Whether you’re on social media, a store website or app that you visit frequently, or searching the web using the latest browser – remember that all of those services have their own privacy policies and settings and they update themselves without notice to you. Just because you said absolutely no sharing of photos yesterday doesn’t mean that under the latest update of terms your selection no longer applies to videos or screenshots of photos. Many a client has been shocked to learn that information they swore was private was introduced across the table in court because a setting was changed internally.

Avoid the temptation to peek.

The most dangerous tool on the internet is the “pop-up” dialogue box. We’ve known this for over twenty (20) years. Many of us have “Pop-Up Blockers” installed to prevent them from sneaking up on us. And guess what the most effective tool is for hackers? One to trick us into going where we shouldn’t or giving them access to our systems? That’s right, the “pop-up” dialogue box. So why do we keep falling for the trap that we know exists in great quantity? Answer most given “I wanted to see what that thing was about”. It’s a real uphill battle. We’re hard-wired to be curious and hackers know it. So, you have to be vigilante and avoid clicking anything that you either didn’t specifically request to see or that seems to good to be true.

Avoid purchasing from unknown or unverified sites online.

As tempting as it might be to save 99% by going to this unverified site to buy a Rolex watch for $27 before the giant countdown timer runs out may be, please understand that in almost every case, that will be a scam. Buy from trusted online resources that have lots of real ratings, are well-known and reputable, and most important have live customer service people to interact with if you run into trouble. Look for the little padlock in the top left corner of the address bar. If you don’t see that, you should think twice about shopping there.

Online

Nothing is free. If you can download it, there’s a reason.

Okay, perhaps an oversimplification but before you bash me over the head with comments like “you can download drivers from Sony for free”, please understand that Sony is offering you a free driver on their site for a product that you either already purchased or intent to purchase. The same goes for everything else. If www.JoeBlowsDrivers.com wants to give you a driver out for no purpose other than you need it – be afraid! Be very afraid! This goes for stolen music, movies, documents, etc. if you can get it for free there is always a risk that it is not what you think it is. Be careful what you allow into your system.

What can I do to maximize our safety online?

I’m glad you asked. There are some basic things that you can do that will help you stay safe online, limit the success rate of hackers, and assist you in maintaining your privacy.

  • Make sure you have reliable Antivirus software that is up-to-date;
  • Make sure you have reliable Malware software. (Yes, it’s different than Antivirus);
  • Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to fake your identity;
  • Use memorable but strong passwords;
  • Be careful what you or your child share online about your family, finances, etc.;
  • While I can’t say don’t talk to strangers online – I will say, be careful who you talk to online and don’t engage in conversations that are none of their business.

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