How to Protect Your Computer (and therefore your personal information):

  • Keep your firewall turned on.
  • Keep antivirus software updated and turned on.
  • Keep anti-spyware programs updated and turned on.
  • Keep your operating system updated.
  • Only download files from trusted and verified sources. Be extremely suspicious of a website that asks you to download software in order to view something on that website.
  • Use strong passwords and change them every 60 to 90 days. Choose passwords that are difficult or impossible to guess. Give different passwords to different accounts. Secret questions to restore passwords should never be something that those who know you could easily guess. Your maiden name, your mother's maiden name, your school, your date of birth and other such password schemes are NOT good passwords. Instead, consider a phrase that is meaningful and memorable to you, then take the first character from each word, alternate uppercase and lower case, and use letter-number substitutions to create a stronger password.
  • Do not keep computers online when not in use. Either shut them off or physically disconnect them from the Internet.
  • Use a strong password to prevent unauthorized access to your wireless (Wi-Fi) network. Wi-Fi networks are vulnerable to intrusion if they are not properly protected after installation.
  • Do not connect to "free" wireless hotspots in public places unless you know the source, such as a verified hotel- or airport-run access point. Many hackers will set up free hotspots to intercept information as you surf the web and type in passwords or account numbers.

For more detailed information please visit the FBI's website.

How to Protect Your Children:

In a calm manner, tell your child what is dangerous about the Internet. This can include:

  • Legal or financial harm to the family, if you "click" without getting permission
  • Exposure to harmful material (violence or sexually explicit scenes)
  • People online who may start off friendly but then change

Even the youngest child can understand the old adage "don't talk to strangers". Teach children from an early age that this includes people who try to talk to them online.

Encourage them to tell you when:

  • Someone they don't know attempts to engage them in an online chat.
  • An inappropriate site comes up on the screen.
  • Someone harasses or threatens them online.

A recent study found that most children did not inform their parents when they faced a difficult situation online, such as being contacted by someone they don't know. The main reasons for their hesitation were embarrassment and fear of losing access to the Internet. Ask your child to tell you when anything questionable happens to them online. Make it clear that they will not lose Internet privileges or be punished if they tell you.

Children need to understand that real world rules and values apply on the Internet just as they do in real life. Make it clear to your children that you are in charge. Your children must understand that just as you decide which movies they are allowed to see, you will supervise their online activities. 

You can learn more about the topics above at NetSmartz Workshop. NetSmartz Workshop is an interactive, educational program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children that provides age-appropriate resources to help teach children how to be safer online and offline. The program is designed for children ages 5-17, parents and guardians, educators and law enforcement. With resources such as videos, games, activity cards and presentations, NetSmartz entertains while it educates.

Other Resources

There are many great resources for information and tips on Cyber Security. One of the most comprehensive can be found on the website of the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT). US-CERT is the operational arm of the National Cyber Security Division (NCSD) at the Department of Homeland Security.