smartconsumer: Staying Safe Online - Know

Staying Safe Online
{What to Know} {What to Do}


The Internet is how most teens keep in touch with friends, find homework help, get movie listings, or find out the latest news. But just like in real life, some people you run into online might try to take advantage of you.

Online chat rooms have a bad reputation. Because users can easily remain anonymous, chat rooms often attract people who are interested in more than just chatting. They'll sometimes ask visitors for information about themselves, their families, or where they live -- information that shouldn't be given away.

But chat rooms aren't the only online risk. Websites, blogs, videos, social networking sites and downloadable games can connect you with other users. Now smart phones and mobile apps make connecting even easier. While that's usually good, it does have risks. Many of these ways of connecting make it easier for scammers to get information that you don't want to share.

Video from the Federal Trade Commission                                           Caption page

Smartphone Apps

Do you download "apps" to your phone or social networking page? Downloading apps may give the app's developers access to your personal information. The developers may share the information they collect with marketers or other companies. Before you download, read the privacy policy and check your privacy settings to see what information the app can access. Is finding out which cartoon character you are really worth sharing the details of your life?

Some hackers have created apps that can infect phones and mobile devices with malware. If your phone sends email or text messages that you didn't write, or installs apps that you didn't download, you could be looking at signs of malware.

File Sharing

Do you share music, games, or software online? Peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing allows you to share these kinds of files through an informal network of computers running the same software. But, P2P file-sharing has risks:

  • You could accidentally provide many people with access to your private files.

  • If you download copyrighted material, you could have legal issues.

  • A shared file could hide spyware or malware that can damage your computer.

Computer technology has opened up a world of entertainment and opportunity. But with it, come serious risks. Have fun, but always protect yourself while online.

Public Wi-Fi

Free wi-fi hotspots at airport terminals and coffee shops may be convenient, but most are not secure.  This can allow other users to pick up any information that you type or access when you're using the hotspot.  In order to be secure, a wi-fi network must use encryption, but many free networks are not encrypted. You can only be sure that a wi-fi network is using effective encryption if it requires you to use a WPA or WPA2 password. 

Video from the Federal Trade Commission                              Caption page

Content Last Modified on 2/27/2013 11:59:40 AM