Online Safety

Online Safety Information

Use Cyber Street-Smarts

  • Use a gender-neutral username/email address.
  • Use a free email account such as Hotmail or Yahoo for newsgroups/mailing lists, chatrooms, IMs, emails from strangers, message boards, filling out forms and other online activities.
  • Don't give your primary email address to anyone you do not know or trust (see above).
  • Don't provide your credit card number or other information as proof of age to access or subscribe to a website you aren't familiar with.
  • Before "speaking" or posting messages on newsgroups, mailing lists and chatrooms be familiar with the content and demographic.
  • Don't be so trusting online - don't reveal personal things about yourself until you really and truly sure that you know the other person.
  • Your first instinct may be to defend yourself - DON'T - this is how most online harassment situations begin.
  • If it looks too good to be true - it probably is.


Virus Detection and Prevention Tips

  1. Do not open any files attached to an email from an unknown, suspicious or untrustworthy source.
  2. Do not open any files attached to an email unless you know what it is, even if it appears to come from a dear friend or someone you know. Some viruses can replicate themselves and spread through email. Better be safe than sorry and confirm that they really meant to send it.
  3. Do not open any files attached to an email if the subject line is questionable or unexpected.
  4. Delete chain emails and junk email. Do not forward or reply to any of them. These types of email are considered spam, which is unsolicited, intrusive mail that clogs up the network. Many people with bad intentions send junk email looking for valid email addresses to test their virus-wares on. And if you reply to this junk mail you could become their next target.
  5. Do not download any files from strangers.
  6. Exercise caution when downloading files from the Internet. Ensure that the source is a legitimate and reputable one. Verify that an anti-virus program checks the files on the download site. If you're uncertain, don't download the file at all or download the file to a CD and test it with your own anti-virus software.
  7. Update your anti-virus software regularly. Over 200 viruses are discovered each month, so you'll want to be protected.
  8. Back up your important files on a regular basis. If a virus destroys your files, at least you can replace them with your back-up copy.
  9. When in doubt, always error on the side of caution and do not open, download, or execute any files or email attachments.

What is Spyware?

"Spyware comes in various forms, but basically it is a program or piece of information on your computer that sends data about you or your computer habits to someone else on the Internet. Spyware can also be a program that places unwanted ads on your computer. Cookies can be considered spyware. They are little piece of information placed in your web browser to track your web habits. This is useful sometimes as a web site can see you have visited it before and let you on without a registration process. Cookies are also used to keep track of your progress through a web store. They are also used to customize website ads to your likes and dislikes."


Why is Spyware Bad?

"For one it can hog precious system resources like memory and hard disk space. It can also compromise your privacy, providing outsiders with information about your computer habits. If a spyware program installs a keylogger it can capture your keystrokes and send it to a third party. This can potentially expose your user IDs and passwords to thieves Some spyware are trojans which allows someone to log into your computer remotely and use it for their own purposes like sending spam or launching malicious attacks on other computers on the Internet, making it look like you are at fault."


How Can I Prevent Spyware?

"There are a few things you can do. Don't download programs by companies you are not familiar with. Avoid shareware and freeware. Don't download illegal pirated software. Set your browser security to HIGH. On Internet Explorer, click Tools > Internet Options > then the Security tab and move the slider to MEDIUM or preferably HIGH. The only problem with this is it may block access to some websites you want to see. Ultimately your best bet is to get an anti-spyware program and scan your system regularly."

Some popular programs that are known to distribute/attract Spyware when installed are Gator, OfferCompanion, Trickler, AudioGalaxy, Gain, ShopAtHomeSelect, Marketscore Activity, and HotBar Activity. There are many, many more. Often, these pirates are given permission to load spyware on your computer when you agree to their license agreement or terms of use......if you really want to use the product, read all of the "legal stuff" before clicking on the "I agree" button.

Additionally, it is important to know that Microsoft products (due to their popularity and high use) are the number one target of cyber-terrorists. At least currently (this could change in the future as other web browsers become more popular) selecting a web browser other than Internet Explorer can help to minimize some types of Spyware.

How do I get Spyware off of my computer?

Software similar to anti-virus software is available to clean these invaders off of your computer.

HOWEVER.....most anti-spyware software does not run in "realtime" like anti-virus software does. You need to run scans to detect and delete Spyware periodically. How often depends on how much you use the Internet. It's relatively quick, so a minimum of weekly is recommended (but daily would be GREAT!!)

Additionally, you also need to update the "definitions" that these products use to detect Spyware. By default, some anti-spyware software is set to remind you to update the definitions every 14 days. As long as you open the software periodically, you will get the reminder, and can just click on the "Get Updates" button.

There are downloadable products available for you to use on your PC. Some are free (possibly with fewer "bells & whistles" than products you pay for) that can help rid your computer of spyware that may currently be running and help to keep it safe in the future. Here are links to a couple that have reported good success:

Lavasoft Ad-Aware SE

Spybot Search and Destroy

What is Phishing?

Phishing is a scam where Internet fraudsters send spam (e-mail) or pop-up messages to lure personal and financial information from unsuspecting victims. To avoid getting hooked:

  • Don't reply to email or pop-up messages that ask for personal or financial information, and don't click on links in the message. Don't cut and paste a link from the message into your Web browser — phishers can make links look like they go one place, but that actually send you to a different site.
  • Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall, and update them all regularly.
  • Don't email personal or financial information.
  • Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to check for unauthorized charges.
  • Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them.
  • Forward phishing emails to – and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the phishing email. You also may report phishing email The Anti-Phishing Working Group, a consortium of ISPs, security vendors, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies, uses these reports to fight phishing.
  • If you've been scammed, visit the Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft website at

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