With web access always at our fingertips, we’re just keywords away from practically anything we can think of! But use unsafe browsing practices and you could be one keyword away from a costly computer virus, or worse, you could be putting your personal information at risk. So before you fire up your search engine, buckle up with these simple safety tips:
USE REPUTABLE SEARCH ENGINES
You may have seen search engine imposters masquerading as the real deal. Beware of search engines that are visually “loud”—with frequent pop-ups or blinking and flashing images—these are typical of a search engine scam that could include malicious software or “malware” to disrupt computer operation or gather sensitive information. Stick to major search engine brands such as Bing, Google and Yahoo. It’s also a good idea to use more than one reputable search engine. Your full search history is not all in one place, making it tougher for cyber crooks to collect all of your data in one swoop.
Ever try doing an online search on yourself? Although it’s good to know what kind of personal information is public, be careful! Input too much personal data in a single search and you may be revealing it. When you include major pieces of identification in a single search—full legal name, social security number, address, etc.—they’ll appear together in a search string that could potentially be stored for a long time, leaving you at greater risk for identity theft. Play it safe! Avoid searches that include two or more easily identifiable pieces of information.
DO A CLEAN SWEEP
Regularly clear your browsing history and delete “cookies”—small text files websites store on your PC or mobile device to recall your preferences. “Tracking cookies” can be an even more invasive way crooks monitor every online move. The good news is that most browsers have a menu option that will let you clear your history and cookies at the same time.
USE ENCRYPTED CONNECTIONS
This is especially crucial if you are searching on a mobile device or using a public Wi-Fi connection. Hackers are known to troll places like the airport or local coffee shops looking to gain access to your personal information. Whenever possible, use websites that offer encrypted connections. An encrypted connection will help keep your browsing secure. You can identify an encrypted connection by looking for: https:// in the URL, which stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure. If you don’t see that, avoid any serious searching.
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