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Steps to make your digital life more secure

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Someone would not have far to look to find somebody more techno-savvy than me. When it comes to electronic gadgets I’m way behind the curve.

However, over the years dealing in the limited fashion I have with computers there are a few things I’ve learned that I can share, for what they’re worth.

Former Sun MicroSystems head, Scott McNealy once famously said, “Privacy is dead.” But, while it certainly is on life support privacy is not quite dead yet. 

For instance, the federal government is looking at new privacy requirements for online companies that may include a “do not track” option for consumers. 

This effort springs from the fact that almost everything we do online can be followed to some extent. After all, being connected means exchanging data and some companies are more aggressive about following the consumer than are others.

So, here are a few tips I’ve come across that might help protect your privacy and simplify your cyber life.

First of all, watch those cookies. Anytime you visit a Website it typically loads small packets of code, called cookies, to make it work better or do things like remember your password so you don’t have to log in next time. Some of the cookies you pick up traveling around the Web shadow your movements and build a virtual profile on you that can be worth dollars to marketers and can be sold. One thing you can do is set your browser to block third-party cookies. These cookies are installed by advertisers and others. You can adjust your browser’s privacy settings to block third-party cookies, or you can simply delete them all. 

Of course, that would mean you might have to log in again to sites that require a password or something, but it’s worth the trouble as far as I’m concerned.

Another thing you can do is change you passwords every so often. I understand passwords can be a pain because they require you remember them and that usually means writing them down somewhere. It’s tempting to use easily remembered things such as anniversaries, but those easy ones are the least secure. Try for something longer with a mix of letters and numbers – and try not to save them on a list in your computer. One big thing is never give your password to anyone asking for it online.

Social media has changed the landscape immensely. While I don’t personally do social media I know you must be very cautious what you say and post there. While it’s wonderful to be “friends” online, it’s worth remembering that whole “six degrees of separation” idea – that we’re ultimately connected to everyone else. Not surprisingly, not all those people have your best interests at heart. College students should keep in mind that employers make a point of checking social media sites and postings of questionable taste may well be a career killer. That same advice applies to older, employed folks who are tempted to post derogatory things about a boss or employer.

Delete the junk. Have you got 10,000 emails on your computer but you haven’t bothered to clean up the clutter? It’s time. 

Sort the email by sender’s name, highlight the ones you don’t want and batch delete them. All those deleted emails probably go into the computer’s trash bin, so you will have to delete them there as well. 

Getting rid of this junk will make your computer a bit peppier and will certainly clear up some storage space. One thing to keep in mind, though, from a forensic computing perspective, even deleted data may not be truly deleted.

Finally, back it up. If you have files you can’t afford to lose, back them up. There are a variety of options to do this from inexpensive external hard drives, to flash drives, to online backup services. One extra option you might consider is to store music photos and video on an external drive.

Like I said, there are many folks out there much more computer savvy than me, but these simple tips may help you out. If I can do it, you know it’s pretty basic.

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Nelson Propane

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