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Top tips for internet security and sharing data online.

01.12.2010

Concern over internet security and the privacy of data online are major issues in today’s society but by taking just a few simple precautions, you can protect yourself against most online crime.

Data security and online privacy are becoming increasingly important issues in our modern, always-connected society. Barely a day goes by without some sort of negative media report on the online world, whether it’s credit card fraud, identity theft, internet stalking or somebody doing irreparable damage to their career by carelessly sharing private information or inappropriate photographs on social networking sites. While it is true that these are real risks, the reality is that such occurrences are still relatively rare and with a few simple precautions and a bit of common sense, you can protect yourself from some of the most common internet security pitfalls.

Credit card fraud is, of course, the most infamous internet security concern and scares many people away from shopping online. Most of this kind of fraud, however, occurs when people use disreputable sites and unsecured connections. When shopping online, look for the ‘https’ prefix on the web address, rather than the usual ‘http’. This means that the connection is secure and that your credit card details can’t be intercepted during the transaction.

In response to fraud worries, many leading credit card providers have started to offer improved security measures to customers. These include verification services that prompt you to enter a password to prove that you own the credit card being used, much like entering a PIN when using a card terminal at a store checkout. It is worth getting in touch with your bank to ask if any of these online security verification measures are available for your credit card.

Identity theft is another high profile online threat and often goes hand-in-hand with credit card fraud. It involves stealing pieces of personal data - birth date, home address and other private details and using them for fraudulent purposes ranging from obtaining a loan in the person’s name to forging a passport. The best way to protect yourself against this kind of crime is simply to share as little personal information as possible online; make it difficult for potential fraudsters to gather the data they need.

Social networking sites have exploded in popularity in recent years and there is a temptation for people to share private details with their friends online. While it is not strictly advisable to do this, those who wish to share such information should make use of the privacy options on sites like Facebook and Twitter. These are often hidden away but are vital to ensuring that only the people you want to see your details can access them. These features also help prevent potential sensitive messages and photographs from impacting on your career and professional life.

Of course, some online services rely on gathering information on the internet, such as those who provide opinion polls and online surveys. Reputable companies will always ensure that your sensitive personal data is protected and have a detailed privacy policy that explicitly expresses your rights, allowing you to participate in safety and security.