Computer and mobile device security is a concern for many. The security of our personal and private information is paramount for our financial well-being, and any failure to protect that information may result in fraud or theft. To combat unlawful collection and application of our personal information, there are a few things that we can do. It's up to us to be smart online consumers and business professionals and safeguard our personal information against those who would otherwise use it fraudulently.

Computer Fraud

Computer fraud is the use of information technology to carry out acts of fraud. This is a very broad definition, and this type of fraud is punishable by fines and jail time under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). The act has been amended a number of times to keep up with ever-changing technologies, including mobile technologies, and is designed to hold accountable those who use the Internet and computers to steal, forge, compromise, or otherwise act unlawfully with a person's or entity's private information. On a personal level, there are many things consumers can do to protect their private information, like opting not to save login information to a given site, clearing one's cookies, shopping online only with reputable companies, and so forth. On a business level, using virtual private network (VPN) solutions can provide an added measure of security and protection against those interested in stealing private company information, such as HR contact data. For people who rely on secure Internet connections in order to conduct business, secure remote access is also an important aspect of computer security, and it has been employed by many large companies to facilitate a safer connection for website users and their employees working remotely.

Cyberbullying, Harassment, and Online Predators

In the past two decades, cyberbullying and harassment have become prevalent within social media, forums, chat rooms, and other Internet community spaces. Harassment can take on many forms, including name-calling, disparaging someone's reputation, threatening harm or physical violence, or sexual harassment. To protect your own mental health and your well-being from cyberbullying, harassment, or predatory behavior, be selective about the online communities you participate in. Monitor the behavior of those within the communities and decide whether or not they are communities you want to be a part of. If the behavior of a group or an individual within a community becomes abusive or negative or contradicts the values of the community, report the behavior to a moderator or website administrator and leave the community. As the global community has taken a stand against cyberbullying, law enforcement may be called in to respond to extreme threats or actions.

Social Media

Social media, like so many things online, has its pros and cons. And for all of its pros, one of the most common drawbacks of social media has been the dissemination of highly personal information that can then be mined and used to steal one's identity. Many who choose to participate in social media, especially younger people, don't think twice about divulging personal information, such as a parent's maiden name or the name of one's first pet. These two examples are commonly linked to password protection, and if someone is savvy enough to mine social media data, they are savvy enough to apply it to other areas of the Internet underworld. Be smart and be selective about the information you share on social media, because you never know who might make the connection and gain access to even more private information stored on the Web.

Privacy and Password Security

Having a secure password is the first step to protecting your personal information when online. In recent years, many websites have stepped up to increase password protection and security, including setting specific requirements for users when they create an account and set a password. For example, one might be asked to create a password that is no shorter than eight characters and includes capitalization, at least one number, and a symbol. These different variables help to decrease the chances of a password being easily guessed. Yes, it could also make them harder to remember, but your privacy and personal information should be thoroughly protected. It's also safest not to save your passwords to a specific website, especially when using a public computer, and always confirm that your account has been logged out of properly before moving on.

Phishing and Hijacking

Phishing is the act of sending fake emails and using fake websites to obtain users' personal information, including credit card information, Social Security numbers, and much more. Many of these fake sites hijack or steal the identity of a reputable, well-known site, like that of a bank or lending service. To avoid being tricked into divulging private information, never respond to an email asking for personal information, and never click the links in an email in which the "From:" and "Reply to:" addresses do not match those of the organization.

Spam

Spam can include phishing, but in general, spam consists of unwanted emails that aim to part you and your money in some way, either through selling you something or through tricking you into giving up your money or key personal information. Remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is: That "miracle diet" isn't likely to work, and there isn't really a Nigerian prince looking to reward you for helping him with his financial dealings. Be wary of messages such as these, and never click links contained within emails from dubious sources, as they're likely to download viruses onto your computer. Also, don't try to "unsubscribe" or otherwise reply to a spam email, as that only tells the spammers that your email address is active and encourages them to send more.

Safe Browsing

Smart Internet browsing is something every user should know. It's important that we learn to recognize illegitimate websites and scams. When using the Internet, choose to do business with only reputable websites. Websites that feature trust symbols and display "https" at the beginning of the address, in which the "S" stands for "secure," are typically more trusted than sites with addresses starting with just "http.". And if you receive an impersonal-sounding email asking for personal information, call the alleged source of the message directly to confirm the need; never respond back to that email. All of this information is important to keep in mind during travel as well.

Added by Gary Taylor