I attended an online security conference this week and there were several workshops that included information that I thought may be of interest.

The Basics

Routers – if use a router in your home to wirelessly connect one or more PCs, tablets, mobile devices, etc. make sure that it is secure. Every router has an option to set up a password before it allows access to your internal network and the Internet. If you don’t set up a password a neighbor or even someone sitting in a car near your home can connect to your network via a wireless connection. They may even be able to access and view, add or delete files on your computers.

Passwords – when setting up a password make it long and use upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols if possible. Do not use your name or initials and your birthday or any other common combination of letters or numbers that someone may be able to figure out. If you have bank, brokerage or other accounts at various organizations do not use the identical password for all accounts. This will prevent someone from accessing all you accounts should a system breach occur at one location.

Security software – if using a PC install security software to protect from viruses that may be downloaded from the Internet. Ideally the software should check every file and email in real-time before it can infect your computer. At a minimum the virus scan should occur every day when you boot up your PC.

Updates – update your operating system (Windows, etc), security software, mobile and tablet apps to the latest versions. Many updates include security patches.


Links – beware of any link in an email especially if you don’t know the sender. Even if you think an email is from an organization or company you deal with be sure to check the sending address and any link within the email to check that it is authentic. If you point to a link (DO NOT CLICK ON IT) the actual link address is typically displayed. If you are unsure if an email is legitimate you can always call the organization or company, or delete it.

Offers – links to offers of free gifts, vacations, reduced cost medications, etc. or declarations that you are a winner of a prize should be approached with extreme skepticism. At a minimum they are a lure for other products or services or they may be malicious and result in virus downloads if clicked.

Also beware of persons or “companies” claiming that they have an account with money that has to be moved and they would like to deposit it into your account for a short period of time in exchange for a large percentage of the money in the account. All you have to do is provide your account information. Don’t.

Personal information – any legitimate organization or company will not ask for personal information by email (social security number, bank or brokerage account numbers, birthdays, etc.) Be wary of any email asking you to update your personal information.

Social Networks

Posting – Be cautious about what you post on social Networks. Make sure that you understand their privacy settings and who will have access to your posts, photos and information. Do not post addresses, phone numbers, account numbers or other personal information on these sites.

Online Shopping, Banking, Investing

Secure sites – if you shop, bank or invest online make sure that you use a secure site to log in. Secure sites begin with https: . The s indicates that the site is secure and any data passed to or from the site is encrypted. Never enter banking, investing or credit card information into a site that begins with http:

Credit Cards – use credit cards for purchases not debit cards if at all possible. Most credit cards offer purchase protection in case your card number is stolen, or if you don’t receive a purchased product from a retailer.

Use mobile apps – if using a smartphone to make a purchase use the store’s app to make the purchase. Most retailers offer apps that are customized for their stores and provide better product searches and purchasing options.

Purchasing in public locations – do not make purchases on public computers (libraries, cafes, etc.) or use your own notebook/tablet to make purchases in these locations. You can expose your credit card information to nearby onlookers. Also some sophisticated hackers may be able to glean your information from public routers.

Purchasing online from overseas retailers – Be cautious when purchasing from international retailers. The protections available when purchasing from a U.S. retailer may not be available for international purchases.

Statements – always check your monthly credit card and debit card statements. I found a double billing for an online purchase on one of my statements. The retailer claimed it was glitch in their system.