How can I be sure my personal information is safe?
While there have been many advances in internet security since online shopping first came about, there are still websites designed to simply take user's information and use them in negative ways. The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) states there are three ways that internet attackers try to obtain information: "targeting vulnerable computers, creating fraudulent sites and e-mail messages and intercepting insecure transactions" (Maher & McDowell, 2010). Before purchasing anything online, research the website that you will be buying from (Purnell). If information about the site is hard to find or contains several negative reviews, consider using a different site. Additionally, by keeping your software up to date, changing your passwords on a regular basis and using reputable and secure shopping sites like Amazon.com, you can help keep your information between yourself and the seller. To read US-CERT's complete article on internet safety, please click here.
What's the best way to prevent viruses?
Viruses are files that are hidden in web and e-mail downloads that can do harm to your computer. The best way to deal with viruses is through prevention. US-CERT suggestions installing "anti-virus software from a reputable vendor. Update it and use it regularly" (US-CERT). If you are using a Windows computer, you can install a free anti-virus program called Microsoft Security Essentials here.
Additionally, in the case that you were ever infected with a computer virus, it is important to keep a current backup of your files. Use an external hard drive or thumb drive or a free cloud storage site like Google Drive or Dropbox.
I can just delete something if I change my mind, right?
When we post content to the web, the users who view the information can usually download the files they see. This means photos, videos or text. Just because you remove the information, does not mean it has been removed from their computers. It is wise to use the rule "would I feel comfortable having this information on the front page of a newspaper or magazine," because your content is just as public!
McDowell, M., & Maher, M. (2010, December 6). US-CERT Tip ST07-001 - Shopping Safely Online. US-CERT - United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team. Retrieved October 27, 2012, from http://www.us-cert.gov/cas/tips/ST07-001.html
Purnell, H. (n.d.). 5 Rules of Internet Safety for College Students. CollegeView - College Finder & Recruiting Service. Retrieved October 27, 2012, from http://www.collegeview.com/articles/article/smart-students-in-a-digital-world
US-CERT. (n.d.). Virus Basics. US-CERT - United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team. Retrieved October 27, 2012, from http://www.us-cert.gov/reading_room/virus.html#tips