Staying Safe Online (and Offline).

For all the good that the internet brings to us, it can also be a dangerous place if you’re not careful. Identity theft, burglars reading blogs, and many other issues can catch you in their web if you’re not careful. Because of this we have a few suggestions to help keep you and your family safe both off- and online.

Keep Personal Information Private

It’s easy to reveal too much information on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. These sites usually have online forms where you can input your email, phone number, and even home address. Keeping spam out of your inbox is one thing, but with today’s sophisticated criminals and increased use of the internet by organized crime, you have to be careful with your home and family information.

Remember that anywhere you publish your home address might provide an opportunity for a burglar looking to case a neighborhood to find his or her next victim. Just as you wouldn’t put your Social Security number anywhere for the general public to see, keep as much personal information under wraps as possible: home address, work address, home phone number, etc.

Watch Those Pictures and Videos

Sharing pictures and videos with family and friends is great, especially with the ease of use that most gizmos and gadgets have today; but be careful not to let anything personally identifiable leak out accidentally. Pictures of your home are fine, but make sure that nothing that can identify you or your family is visible. For example, anything like a street sign near your home or the name of the school that your kids attend can be dangerous to post since they can be used to track you down in real life. The same goes for your cars. Even news and entertainment shows blur out license plates for the sake of privacy and security. If your pictures have any elements like that, it’s a good idea to cut- or blur-out those things.

Don’t worry though, because you’re not going to have to spend a lot of cash to buy a photo editing software package like Photoshop (a wonderful, albeit expensive, piece of software). If you don’t have photo-editing software, you can find plenty of free online tools that let you blur, clip, or pixelate pictures without emptying your wallet. A few good ones are Pixlr and Picnik.

Don’t Reveal Too Much

Be sure not to give away too many details about your daily activities. Most people have a general pattern they follow day-to-day as they go to school or work, and criminals can use that information to their advantage. If you post info online about going on vacation, a ball game, or even the grocery store, then those who might use that information against you could be given a perfect opportunity to slide in when you step out. Instead, try posting your activities after the fact, with the added benefit of being able to show pictures of the fun you had (keeping in mind the photo safety tips above).

One Last Thing…

Don’t get us wrong.. it’s not like posting a picture online is going to immediately ruin your life. Well, not any family-friendly photos, at least. Some of the examples given may seem extreme, but they happen, and you need to be aware of them. But like with most things in life, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Exercising a little extra caution before clicking that “submit” button can help curb any potential hazards and keep you and your information safe.

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About Jon

Jon has worked in the tech industry since the pre-Bubble dotcom days and still has a 1200 Baud modem somewhere in his garage. When he's not advocating the use of strong passwords and being smart about social media, he's working on finding new ways to convince his wife that bacon is a vegetable which should be eaten with every meal.