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Digital 'spring cleaning' tips help prevent cyber crime

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Posted: Thursday, May 1, 2014 10:00 pm | Updated: 1:40 am, Fri Aug 1, 2014.

(BPT) - Every day, more than 1 million people become victims of cyber crime, according to the 2013 Norton Cyber Crime Report. The Heartbleed bug, which attacked vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software, put even more people at risk of hackers accessing their personal information shared on many websites. In 2013, the Target Corporation data breach affected 110 million customers. Yet, according to Norton, nearly 50 percent of tablet and smartphone users continue to neglect basic precautions such as passwords, security software or back-up files to secure their mobile devices.

It is only a matter of time until the next digital bug or retailer data breach. To protect yourself, cyber security experts recommend “spring cleaning” your cyber footprint.  

“Many people don’t realize that everything they do is being tracked online,” says Ed Hill, Web application consultant and professor in the College of Engineering and Information Sciences at DeVry University. “Consumers should take precautionary steps to clean up their cyber footprint for their own cyber safety.”

Hill offers tips for consumers to clear or secure their cyber footprint and avoid a cyber crime:

1. Delete abandoned accounts and review your apps. If you’re no longer active on a website, delete your account – and the personal data it holds – to prevent your information from being used or sold. Additionally, there is no reason for apps on your phone to have access to your information.

2. Use the “Do Not Track” feature of your browser. The feature informs websites you visit that you wish to opt-out of tracking. Think of this as a digital “do not call” list. This is not a perfect solution because it is up to the website managers to decide if they will honor this request. However, it can help reduce the number of websites tracking your information. For information on how to configure your browser in this way, visit donottrack.us.

3. Use your browser’s “private mode.” This makes it more difficult for sites to track your movement around the Web. Using private mode can help keep tracking cookies off your computer. Visit howtogeek.com for additional details.

4. For the safest browsing, use the Tor network. Originally sponsored by the U.S. Navy for the primary purpose of protecting government communications, Tor is currently developed by a not-for-profit organization and supported by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. State Department. Tor is used to keep websites from tracking users. Visit www.torproject.org to download Tor for free.

“Taking proactive steps to manage the information available and tracked about you online is the best way to protect against cyber crime,” says Hill.

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