Data Safety: Safety Tips for everyday computing and Mobile Usage

oStaying in touch has never been so effortless, but there are risks – primarily the potential theft of your sensitive private data.

Here are some simple tips to help:

Lock computer and accounts with strong passwords and on mobile phones use a PIN

Create strong passwords  – Strong passwords are at least eight characters (longer is better) and mix letters, numbers, and symbols. Learn how to create them at passwords/create.aspx.

Keep passwords and PINs private – Do not share them in an email, instant, or text messages, or store them on mobile phones. Do not disclose them to friends or businesses, or be tricked into giving them away.  Avoid using the same password or PIN everywhere.

Save financial activity for a secure home network  – Do not pay bills, bank, shop, or do other sensitive business on a public computer, or on a personal laptop or mobile phone over “borrowed” or public Wi-Fi (like a hotspot). The security can be unreliable. (Using the mobile phone network, which encrypts data, is acceptable.)

Watch for snoops – People scouting for passwords, PINs, usernames, or other private data can watch fingers pressing keys or reflection in screens as data is entered.

Protect data on the go (Using personal computers) – If computers are used on public Wi-Fi or unsecured wireless networks without adequate safeguards, hackers and identity thieves may be able to eavesdrop on web activity.

Defend laptops against Internet threats – Install antivirus and antispyware software. Never turn off your firewall, and use flash drives cautiously. Keep all software (including Web browser versions) current with automatic updating.

Check the security level of the wireless hotspot – Choose the most secure connection even if it means paying for it. A password-protected connection–ideally one that is unique for personal use–is better than one without a password. Ask about encryption–a network key or certificate that scrambles data as it travels between a laptop and the router. Confirm the exact spelling of the network being connected. Beware of clever fakes.

Turn off the wireless connection when you are not using the Internet –When using an external Wi-Fi card, simply remove it. For an internal card, look for a button on the laptop or a combination of keys that will cut the connection.

 Do not leave the computer unattended and unlocked, even briefly, always press CTL + ALT + DEL and LOCK computers.

 Erase digital tracks – Do not store passwords in Browsers – Web browsers can keep a record of passwords and every page visited, these can be easily retrieved by hackers and used. Use and Look for the feature that enables private browsing and turn it on.

 Use flash drives cautiously – Avoid storing sensitive data on a USB flash (thumb) drive. If lost or stolen, anyone can access that information. Never put an unknown flash drive into a PC, or copy files from a flash drive onto a hard drive. Do Not open files found on a flash drive other than the ones that should be there.


Protecting data on mobile phones and devices

Accept incoming content only from trusted sources –  
If someone sends an attachment or a link, delete it unless the message is expected or typical of the sender–it could be a virus or spyware. Have Bluetooth connectivity, turn it off or set it to non-discoverable mode when not in use. This blocks unwanted downloads and keeps intruders from reading contacts, text messages, and other data stored on your phone.

 Use GPS features wisely  – Disable when not needed – A mobile phone’s ability to pinpoint or tag exact locations can be a threat to privacy –controlling how that data is used and by whom can be impossible.

 Set phones to lock and activate PIN’s when not in use

 Take steps to protect private data if the mobile device is stolen – Look into a service that will enable location services to locate the stolen phone on a map, and lock it or erase its data remotely.