Keeping Safe on the Internet

Nicole DeVaultBy guest author Nicole DeVault. Nicole DeVault is an IS Analyst at ACHIEVA. She is a graduate of West Virginia University. She has worked in the technology departments at various companies and schools in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Nicole has spent most of her life working with the intellectual and developmental disabilities population and using technology to adapt the world to their needs.

Welcome to the Internet, a constantly changing and evolving world of information and people. One thing never seems to change though, everything that can catch the unwary as they navigate the vast world of email, web pages, and data.

Even the most veteran traveler can be fooled into downloading a questionable file, and phishing emails and sites are becoming more and more sophisticated. Here are some tips to help keep you and your information safe in cyberspace.

  • Pay attention to web addresses – The address at the top of your browser can tell you a lot of information about a web page, and if they can be trusted. EDU is for accredited schools, GOV is from US government only, ORG tends to be for nonprofit organizations, while COM and INFO can be purchased and used by anyone. For locations outside the US, there are also country codes on web addresses that you can look up.
  • Verify links – If the link in your email says it is from Paypal, but when you click on it, the web address is not Paypal, there is something phishy going on.
  • If it is too good or too terrible to be true – Whether you have won a foreign lottery, or the FBI is taking over your computer, these scams work off emotion to get you to hand over information. Always keep in mind that financial institutions and government organizations will NEVER ask for your social security number or other identifying information over email.
  • To download or not – If you need to download a file or program, always be sure you know who it came from. If you do not know who put it out on the internet, you cannot be sure what you may be downloading. It something seems odd, such as a friend emailing you a file unexpectedly, verify that they sent it before you download it.
  • Clicking made too easy – Those 5 pop-ups asking ‘are you sure’ may be annoying, but one of those messages may have been asking to install additional software that you do not want or need. Read before you click OK.
  • Asking never hurt anyone – If you are not sure, ask your IT department. They can always check into anything you have concerns about.

Even if you did something you should not have, let your IT department know immediately. Often they can stop the damage before things get too far. If IT does not know about the problem, they cannot fix it! Now get out there, and have a safe and productive browsing experience!