Electronic Vigilance in Four Easy Steps

As an entrepreneur whose business is built around the marvels of computers and the Internet, I am what one would classify as a ‘computer geek’. I wear the title with pride.  I introduce my clients to a variety of on-line and electronic alternatives to the so-called traditional ways of doing business. Here at the conference table I’ve discussed some of those alternatives.  I’ve also discussed the technophobia that some people have to deal with.  Much of it can be traced directly to horror stories of hackers and identity thieves. And while it can’t be denied that these situations occur, there are a few simple steps that can alleviate the fear of it happening to you.

Step One:  Don’t click on links in e-mail unless you are sure it’s what it says it is, and you know and trust the sender.  Never click a link to a bank or other sensitive account. Sure, it may actually be an e-mail update from your bank, but what’s it hurt to actually type your banks address into the address bar instead of clicking on that e-mail link.  There are too many ‘phishing’ scams that take you to copycat sites that look just like your bank website.  I personally seldom click on links in my e-mail at all.  I have to be absolutely sure the person sending me the link isn’t inadvertently sending me something ‘phishy’.  And while your at it, ignore those FWD: e-mails as much as possible. I never, ever click on a link in  a FWD: message. I very seldom respond to a FWD:  either.  And if I send one, I am sure to send a personal message to the recipient explaining why I am.   

Step Two: I can’t stress the importance of good virus and spy-ware software enough. One that can be set up to monitor your e-mail as well is critical. And keep it updated. It’s worth every penny.

Step Three: Don’t fear on-line shopping, but do be smart about it. Always be sure you’re at a secure site. Look for the little lock icon in your browser that tells you that any information you send is encrypted and protected. And if you get a bad feeling about giving your information at a site, don’t do it. I’ve learned to follow my instincts, even if there is a lock icon. If I feel the site doesn’t feel ‘right’ or it seems to be unprofessional, I won’t do business there.

Step Four: Set up a free e-mail account to use strictly for ‘joining’ sites, mailing lists, etc.  Forums, mailing lists, e-newsletters, social sites and the like are great. Not only are they fun, but they can be a great networking tool. But be smart about sharing your information at places like these. Spammers have a tendency to pick up e-mail addresses and other information through this type of interactive site. Most of the sites work hard to combat it, but it’s impossible to stop it completely. So safeguard yourself.  By using a ‘disposable’ e-mail address instead of your myname@myinternetprovider.com you save yourself the headaches of SPAM overload. It also makes sense to give as little personal information as possible when signing up for these services. 

Following these simple steps can help you feel safer and smarter while still utilizing the latest technology. 

Are these the only steps out there to help keep you and your information safe? Certainly not, and I welcome comments from those of you with more ideas.