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Illinois State University

How to Protect Yourself Online

For all its benefits, the Internet poses many dangers as well. Use these strategies to reduce your risk and to protect yourself online.

When you use the Internet, there are many dangers to avoid. Viruses, spyware, and identity theft are some of the worst dangers you can face. Use the strategies in this document to reduce your risk and to protect yourself.

Be skeptical.
If it sounds too good (or terrible) to be true, it could be a fake. Don't blindly trust websites, emails, or instant messages—they could be trying to trick you into doing something you will regret. Many phishing scams try to trick you into giving away your personal info.

Do not "update personal info".
If you receive an email from a company or bank that asks you to "verify" or "update" your personal info online by filling out a web form, don't do it. Contact them by phone to update your information. Phishing scams often use this tactic to convince people into giving away their personal information.

Know who you're dealing with.
If you enter your personal info on a website, it could be used to steal your identity. Before you submit your credit card numbers, bank account numbers, social security number, etc., be 100% sure you know who you're dealing with. Even if the site 
looks legitimate, it could be a fake website used by phishing scammers.

Think before you click.
Don't just click links without thinking first. Who sent you the link? Do you trust that person? Were you expecting to receive it? In fact, even if you trust the sender, it could be a virus—or worse. When in doubt, ask the person if he or she meant to send the email or instant message.

Don't flaunt your Facebook.
When you join social sites like Facebook, use discretion. The personal info and pictures you put online may come back to haunt you. Potential employers, the police, your teachers, and your parents may all look at your Facebook profile.

Avoid risky searches.
Your search results may contain links to dangerous websites, especially if you use search terms like "free screensavers" or "download music". These sites might install spyware, infect you with viruses, or cause other problems. If you use filesharing applications for searches, you could be downloading a virus instead of the music or movie you thought you were getting.

Know your anti-virus and anti-spyware.
You should know how to use your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs like Microsoft Security Essentials and MalwareBytes. Scan your computer for spyware and viruses regularly to keep it healthy. And make sure you keep your software up-to-date.

Look for signs of security.
Secure websites use "http
s://" in their web addresses. The "s" means that data sent to and from the website is protected by encryption. Never submit your personal information on a website that doesn't have https:// prefacing its address.

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