How can I protect myself while online?

Verify data is encrypted

Computer securityWhen sending confidential information over the Internet such as usernames, passwords, or credit card numbers only send it securely. To verify this look for a small lock (Internet browser security lock) in the bottom right corner of your browser window or next to the address bar (as shown below). If visible, this lock should also be in the locked position and not unlocked.

Internet Explorer 7.0 secure address bar
Internet Explorer 7 secure address bar

We also suggest making sure the URL begins with https as shown above.

While the lock is in the lock position, data is encrypted, which helps anyone from understanding the data if it's intercepted. When no lock is visible or in the unlocked position, all information is plaintext and if intercepted could be read. If a web page is not secure, such as an online forum, use a password you wouldn't use with protected sites such as your online banking website.

Use a safe password

Websites that store confidential data, such as an online bank site need to use strong passwords. Also, it is highly recommended that you use a different password for each website that requires a login. If you need help remembering your passwords, consider using a password manager.

When available always enable two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication adds additional protection by requiring an additional step in verifying a login. Typically with two-factor authentication after verifying your password if the service does not recognize your computer it sends your phone a text message with a verification code. If someone had your password but did not have your phone, even with a valid password, they cannot access your account.

Tip: Two-factor authentication should at the very least be enabled on your e-mail account. Since most passwords can be reset using the forgot password feature that e-mails anyone who has access to your account a new password.

E-mail is not encrypted

Never transmit confidential data over e-mail, such as passwords, credit card information, etc. E-mail is not encrypted and if intercepted by a third-party could be read.

Be aware of phishing scams

PhishingFamiliarized yourself with phishing scams and techniques, which are used to trick you into divulging your account information. Online banking sites, Paypal, eBay, Amazon, and other popular sites that require logins are popular targets.

Use caution when accepting or agreeing to prompts

When prompted to install any program or add-on make sure to read and understand the agreement before clicking on the Ok button. If you do not understand the agreement or feel it is not necessary to install the program cancel or close the window.

Additionally, when installing any program watch for any check box that asks if it's ok to install a third-party program, toolbar, etc. These are never required and often cause more issues than good. Leave these boxes unchecked.

Be cautious where you're logging in from


Your place of work can install key loggers or use other methods of monitoring the computer while online. Someone who has access to this information could read these logs and gather usernames and passwords. Also, do not store any passwords in your browser if your computer is shared with other coworkers.

Wireless network

When on a wireless network realize that all information being sent to and from your computer can be intercepted and read by someone nearby. Prevent this from happening by only logging into a secure network using WEP or WPA. If this is a home wireless network, make sure it is secure.

Friends house

Be concerned when logging into an account on a friend's computer. A computer or network you are not familiar with could intentionally or unintentionally log usernames and passwords. Finally, when logging into any site on a friends computer never save the password information on their browser.

Be aware of those around you

While at work, school, library, or anywhere that has people around who could look at the monitor be cautious of anyone shoulder surfing. Someone could watch you type in your password, which would give them access to your account.

If you need everything displayed on the screen to remain private, consider a privacy filter for the display.

Update Internet browser plugins

Often many attackers find security vulnerabilities through browser plugins such as Adobe Flash. Make sure all installed Internet plug-ins are up-to-date.

Secure saved passwords

Make sure to store passwords and login information in a secure area. Never write login information on a sticky note or in a text file that is not encrypted.

KeePass password managerTo save your passwords we recommend using a password manager, which stores all login information and securely encrypts and password protects that information.

When saving password information in a browser, it may be visible to anyone who has access to your Internet browser. For example, without a master password setup in Firefox anyone can see all stored passwords.

Protect yourself against malware, spyware, and viruses

Protect your computer viruses by installing an anti-virus program on the computer or if you are running the new version of Windows at least have Windows Defender running on the computer. Also, having a malware protection program such as Malwarebytes on the computer is also a good method of protecting your computer against malware and spyware.

Use a third-party service to confirm the safety and security of a page

We recommend the free Web of Trust (WOT) tool to verify the safety of all websites on the Internet.