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Security Questions & Answers

The fast-paced evolution of cyber attacks and technology leaves a lot of us scratching our heads wondering, how can I stay safe? Below are a few questions & answers that can help increase your awareness and protection for both adults and kids.

Questions and Answers for Adults


My family just bought a new computer. What software should I buy to make sure that we stay safe online?

The very first thing you should do is purchase a comprehensive security software solution that includes at least anti-virus software, anti-spyware software and a personal firewall.

What is a computer virus? What is spyware? How can I avoid getting

Viruses and spyware are software programs that can hurt your computer by slowing it down, erasing information from your hard drive, and tracking what you do online. Some really nasty programs can even steal your information. To avoid getting a virus, be sure that you have security software installed and updated on your computer and never download email attachments or software unless you are positive that it is safe to do so.

I think my computer is infected with spyware. How do I get rid of it?

If you ever suspect some form of spyware, malware or crimeware has infected your computer, unplug or turn off your network connection and shut it down. While you are offline, do a full security scan with your security software. If you’ve kept your security updated with automatic updates, chances are, it will detect and quarantine the nasty software, and potentially delete it.

How did spammers get my email address? How do I get rid of spam?

It’s tricky to identify how people who send unsolicited email collect addresses because there are so many ways to do so. Spammers can obtain your email address from chat rooms, insecure email lists, websites that sell your email address to advertisers or simply finding your email address posted on websites. People who spam use “web crawlers” or automated programs that look through various kinds of online traffic to collect email addresses. The best solutions for getting rid of spam is filtering it by using your email provider’s spam filtering system and simply deleting spam and NEVER replying to it.

Lately, I’ve heard a lot about “phishing.” What is it?

Phishing is even worse than spam. Phishing is when someone sends you a bogus email that uses fear to get you to give up private information, credit card numbers, and online passwords.

What is the best way, aside from being by their side that I can monitor what my child does online?

There are a number of Internet security suite programs that offer parental control software, which includes monitoring and Internet filtering tools that filter offensive content, pictures, and websites.

What is the best method to deter my child from being victimized by an
online predator?

Most important is to have open communication with your children about their experiences on the Internet. By asking questions, you can learn about their online habits and determine what needs to be done, if anything, to increase the safety of their online activities.

Someone has been sending my child obscene messages, what can I do?

If your child receives messages that are in anyway obscene, threatening or harassing, contact your local authorities, especially if you feel your child is in danger. Your can also file a cyber crime report by going to our Report Cyber Crime section.

I like to pay bills and do other things like banking online. What can I do to make sure that I stay safe while doing these things?

For online banking, shopping and other financial activity, you must make sure you are using a secure computer that isn’t infected with viruses or spyware. Also, if you are banking from a computer with a wireless connection, make sure you are either using a secure, encrypted network, or use a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN acts like a secure, encrypted tunnel that links your wireless laptop to a secure network, usually at your workplace.

I’ve been getting emails from banks and other businesses lately that have asked me to change my password, or to give them information about myself. Something doesn’t feel right about them, what should I do?

Avoid opening those emails and do NOT click on any links in them because they are dangerous. These are called phishing emails. Cyber criminals send to frighten you into giving them your passwords and other information that enables them to steal from you.

How can I store and protect my personal information and work when I
am on someone else’s computer?

There are three remote safeguards you can use that will help to protect your personal information and work, although no matter what security and what tools you have, you must always be careful when going online away from your home or office. The most secure is a U3 smart drive. These are USB flash drives with special software to mimic a personalized computer that you carry with you. By using a U3 drive, you can carry your email, personalized web browser, instant messaging, and word processor and other tools and programs, all stored on the flash drive. Next is a secure USB flash drive – much like a standard USB flash drive, secure flash drives store large documents and files and are extremely portable. However, to make them secure, they store documents and sensitive files on an encrypted portion of the drive, restricting access with a pre-set username and password. Last, and least secure, is a USB flash drive. They let you store important files and documents and carry them with you.

I do a lot of business traveling and often find myself using Wi-Fi hotspots at airports, hotels, and restaurants. Is there any danger to using
these hotspots and if so, what are some precautions that I can take?

Wireless networks may be convenient, especially for business people, but they are also dangerous. If you use a wireless network without locking down your connection, any cyber thieve with the right technology know-how can see and steal any information you post or enter online. The only way wireless networks can be safe is if the wireless connection is encrypted. Since you’re using a public network, you need a virtual private network (VPN) to be safe. A VPN acts like a secure, encrypted tunnel that links your wireless laptop to a secure network, usually at your workplace. Without a secure network or a VPN, cyber crooks can see everything you are doing online. Also, consider cranking up your firewall settings when you use a wireless hotspot to minimize the change a nearby hacker can break into your computer.

I have a smart phone. Is it safe to read email and surf the Web?

You see, in reality, these devices are not just phones; they are powerful, tiny computers. While their wireless connection is usually encrypted, they can be hacked and can get infected with viruses. There are two methods to protecting your smart phone that could deter cyber predators and viruses from attacking your device. First, mobile anti-virus software is relatively low cost and provides great peace of mind when faced with the chance some cyber criminal will unleash a nasty mobile virus in the near future. Second, mobile firewall software is available to prevent anyone from accessing your personal and business information.

I have a small business and unlike bigger companies I do not have an IT person. Unfortunately, I’m not the most computer security savvy person. What simple tips can you give me to guard my business from being attacked by all those cyber predators out there?

It’s okay! With the help of cyber security experts and other friends you too can understand online risks and threats. At minimum, you need strong anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-spam security along with a tough personal firewall to prevent hackers from sneaking onto your system. Secure your computer before you go online and keep your security up to date. Also, make sure all access to your work computer is password protected. Finally, if you are very concerned about cyber criminals attacking your system, consider hiring a managed security service to manage and maintain your business computer security.

Questions and Answers for Kids


My computer is acting strange! Web sites keep popping up in different boxes and even after I restart my computer the same thing keeps happening. What’s wrong?

Your computer is most likely infected with spyware, adware or a virus. These are software programs that can hurt your computer by slowing it down, erasing information from your hard drive, and tracking what you do online. Some really nasty programs can even steal your information. Go tell your parents or a trusted adult. They will be able to fix the problem by installing internet security software that will keep that nasty and annoying software away from your computer.

I found a game that looks really cool on the internet. How can I download it?

Downloading programs off the Internet is easy and fun, but sometimes these programs can actually spy on you and you don’t want people spying on you. Ask Mom and Dad for help before you decide to download programs, just in case that download is dangerous.

I was chatting online the other day, and someone started saying mean things to me. What should I do if that happens again?

Whenever you are threatened online, get up immediately and go tell a parent or teacher. You should never respond to anyone that threatens you online.

While I was in a chat room someone I met online wanted to meet me in
person later this week. What should I do?

You should never meet anyone in person that you’ve only met online. Go tell your parents immediately that someone invited you to meet in person.

When I was chatting with someone yesterday, they sent me a photo that I didn’t want to see. What should I do?

Go tell your parents or a trusted adult, like your teacher, immediately. If you saved the photo or a trusted adult is near you when that happens, show the picture to them so that they can determine what do next. Do not chat with that person any more.

My parents always bug me whenever I’m on the Internet. They constantly look over my shoulder and ask me questions about what websites I visit, who I chat with, and what games I play. Why do my parents do that?

Your parents ask because they care about your safety. Although you’re physically invisible to everyone you’re chatting with while on the Internet, your online visits can lead to strangers getting hold of personal information, like your name or home address, which can put you in danger. Your parents are asking questions because they want to make sure all the activity that you’re doing online is safe and risk-free.

My friend brags that he can break into any computer there is! He figures out how to get into a computer network, and then he can read anybody’s email or even send fake email from someone else’s account. He says this is really fun and wants me to help him get into the computer at school. It sounds fun, but can I get in trouble for it?

Yes, you can get in big trouble for it. Breaking into computers is not a game. It’s a crime and it’s an invasion of privacy. Computers contain sensitive information. I’m sure you wouldn’t like it if someone broke into your computer and stole stuff that's important to you.

I’m trying to think of a password for my email account that I can remember but won’t allow anyone else to get into my account. What are some tips you could give me on picking one?

  • Use a password that has letters and numbers mixed up.
  • Don't use any names of family, friends, pets.
  • Don't use your telephone number, zip code, your initials, any part of your name, or address.
  • Don't use a password of all digits, or all the same letter.
  • Use a password longer than six characters.

While at school, I saw this girl who is mean to me enter her password for Internet access and now I can log in and read all her e-mail. I can send e-mail from her account, too, so that people will think the message is from her. Since she is mean to me, is it ok that I get back at her by doing this?

No, that would be wrong. If you are having problems with this girl you should talk with your parents or a trusted adult, so that they can help you with this situation.

While I was chatting online, I gave my photo to someone because they asked for it. Should I tell my parents about it?

Yes! You must tell your parents about this because you could be in danger. You need to tell your parents everything that occurred during the chat. If someone knows what you look like and has personal information, like your home address, your parents need to take steps to make sure you are safe. Never email a picture of yourself to a stranger!

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