Increasingly, these criminals are going online to steal victims’ identities and information through phishing, and though experts have warned about the threat of online ID theft for well over 10 years now, the rise and proliferation of social networks has compounded the problem.
Customize Windows to Protect Your Online Identity
While popular security programs have expanded their services, and an industry dedicated to protecting users from identity theft has emerged. In fact, many operating systems and browsers now feature security measures that allow users to project their own identity online.
However, these options can be difficult for less-experienced users to find, and often confusing to understand. Even so, you don’t need a criminal justice degree to learn how to project yourself. Just making a few simple changes you can make within Windows, and the Internet Explorer and Firefox Web browsers can help safeguard your identity online.
In Windows, go to “Control Panel” and find Windows Update and Windows Firewall – these features may be under different headings, depending on which version of Windows you are using. (find some more firewall tools)
Check to make sure Windows is up to date, then be sure to set Windows Update to "Update Automatically" so that you do not miss any important updates. Most users should also make sure that Windows Firewall is enabled, but running more than one firewall can cause conflicts; check your firewall’s frequently asked questions (FAQ) to learn more.
Additionally, both Internet Explorer (IE) and Firefox offer Private Browsing, a feature that keeps the browser from storing the information collected while surfing sites. Private Browsing deletes the history, cookies, forms and settings for that session.
This often forces you to make certain concessions that most users would rather avoid, such as logging in to sites every time you visit. More advanced users can tailor their online security using “Internet Options,” available in both browsers under Tools.
In IE, you can set your privacy and security simply by adjusting the settings under the appropriate tabs. "Medium-High" should be sufficient for most users on both tabs, but be sure to check “Enable Protected Mode” on the “Security” tab.
In Firefox, you can choose which security features you wish to use under these same tabs and then customize their settings. You can also often find extensions and plug-ins that automate this process and make it much easier to complete. Under "Privacy," you might want to uncheck the "Remember Download" and "Remember Search and Form" history options.
Similarly, under "Security," make sure the first three boxes are checked, which keep sites from installing unwanted software without your permission and keep you from wandering onto dangerous or compromised sites.
These simple changes, along with a firewall, will help protect you from identity theft and other criminal activities. However it is important to remember that there are no completely fail-proof methods to projecting yourself from identity theft. Online criminals are always looking for ways to compromise victims’ security. The only way to protect yourself from identity theft is to remain aware and vigilant, and use common sense when it comes to sharing your personal information online.