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Nova Scotia Seniors: Staying Safe Online

Posted Nov 24, 2016

The internet has spawned many positive inventions, allowing people more freedom and choice than ever before. Online banking, education and communication have altered the way we perform our day-to-day tasks and we now have the ability to get more done remotely.

Safety and security are a major theme in internet use. Our personal computers are closer to our lives than ever before.  In the same ways that we install security systems, lock our doors and change our codes.. we must perform the same safety practices online.

Here are a few helpful tips to get you thinking about internet safety:

  1. Security Software/ Virus Protection
    Believe it or not, there are viruses for computers! Unleashed online, these viruses search the internet looking for vulnerable computers to burrow into. Once the right computer is found, they will download themselves and search for usable data. It is important to stay up to date with your computer’s online defences. Talk to a trusted family member, or a reputable computer retailer to ensure that your computer has anti virus software.
  1. E-Mail
    Just like our mailboxes at home, sometimes junk mail can find its way into our box. Most online mail services have an automatic method of filtering out suspicious mail, but it is also important to do our own sifting. A good rule of thumb, is if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Even if the e-mail is from someone you know, trust your intuition. If it sounds suspicious, or out of the ordinary, delete it. It is not difficult for a tech savvy person to create a convincing e-mail, and send it along in the hopes of obtaining something from the receiver. This could appear in the form of a link, a question seeking a response, or a downloadable file. Every interaction that you make with these con artists allows them to gather more information about you… use your best judgement!
  1. Passwords
    Change your password frequently, and use different passwords for different sites. Often times passwords must be a minimum for 6 letters, and contain numbers and symbols. The reason for this is that it forces the password cracker to run through many thousands of possible combinations, making it more difficult to reach an answer.Writing your passcodes on a piece of paper, tucked safely away from the computer in a book is a good way to keep track of these. Pay mind not to share your passcodes freely, as they protect sensitive information.
  1. Sensitivity of Shared Information
    Be careful with how much information you divulge online. What you share online, you share for the world to see. We cannot protect ourselves from everything, so think about the environment in which you’re sharing your information. For instance… when banking online, you should feel secure logging onto your providers website and checking accounts that way. Banks retain customers by providing a secure environment for us to handle our money.  But, if we were to share our banking information over e-mail or Facebook we are opening ourselves up to possible intruders. These lines are less secure, as these are simply free online resources. Think about the sensitivity of the message, and ask yourself what precautions you would take if you were sharing it through the post.

Think critically, and be open to learn about the various ways you can build up your own firewalls from intruders. Remember, the internet is a wonderful tool used to organize and bring people closer together. There will be people looking for easy solutions to make a buck, but this is just another adventure, and there are always risks. Stay safe!