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Everything you need to know about online safety

October 3, 2014

Anyone can be the target of an Internet scam or security breach, whether they're brand new to computers or seasoned professionals. In honor of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, we're reviewing all of the most important online safety tips so you can surf the Web in confidence. Follow these rules to avoid hackers and viruses that threaten the security of your personal information and documents.

Use unique passwords
When creating a password for your accounts, try to use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters to make it difficult for anyone to guess. Anti-virus software McAffe explained that hackers typically use certain tools that try a slew of common words and phrases until they find a match. With long, unique passwords, you're less likely to be the victim of a hacked account. Although it's challenging to remember tricky passwords in addition to everything else you're expected to recall on a daily basis, it's important to also use different passwords for each of your accounts to further protect against a breach. For example, your code should be different for each of your social media and email accounts. Try writing them down and keeping them somewhere safe if necessary. Just be sure to store them somewhere far away from the computer!

Install anti-virus software
Another way to keep your computer safe is by installing software that protects it from harmful viruses. Installation is easy, and once the program is on your computer, it performs scans periodically to check for any threats. The National Cyber Security Alliance suggested not only scanning your computer, but also smartphones, USBs, cameras and any other devices that you plug into your computer. Typically when you plug in an external device, the software will prompt you and recommend a security check. It's recommended that you take advantage of that feature.

Avoid online pharmacies
Some of the most common security threats are disguised as helpful services, noted the FBI. While they're convenient, sites that sell medications can sometimes be fraudulent. Those that are credible often have a seal of approval from the Association of Boards of Pharmacy in the United States. If you're ever unsure, it's best to just pick up your prescriptions at your local drugstore or set up a feature that delivers it straight to your doorstep.