thinking man
Ask yourself these questions when you're evaluating a website:

  1. What authority is responsible for this site? Who developed the site, and is there a clear link to contact information? What are the author’s credentials, and is the site supported by an organization or commercial body?
  2. What is the purpose of the site? Is the purpose to inform, persuade, convey an opinion, entertain, or parody something/someone? Is the site geared to a specific audience (students, scholars, public at large), and does the content support the site’s purpose?
  3. What is the extent of this site’s coverage? Does the site claim to be selective or comprehensive?  Are the topics explored in depth? Compare the value of the site’s information compared to other similar sites.  Does the site provide information with no relevant external links?
  4. Is the information posted on the site current? Does the site list the date the information was first written, published online, and last revised? Are there any dead links or references to sites that have moved?  Is the information provided so time-specific that its usefulness is limited to a certain time period?
  5. Is the site clearly objective, or is it trying to sway its audience? Is the information presented with a particular bias?  Is site advertising at odds with the content? Is the site trying to explain, inform, or persuade, or is it selling something?
  6. Is the information accurate? Does the site provide references, and does it use correct spelling and grammar?


There are also specific criteria in evaluating government websites, which are especially important when trying to access vital services:

  1. Does the website address end in ".gov."?
  2. Does the site charge a fee for blank government enrollment/application forms? Government forms and instructions are free.

Contact Consumer Action’s hotline at 415.777.9635 or online if you have a question about a suspicious site that claims to be government related.

Finally, here are some more ways to protect yourself online.

Sources:

Re-Hashed: 5 Ways to Determine if a Website is Fake, Fraudulent, or a Scam (Hashed Out)

6 Criteria for Websites (Dalhousie University)

Be aware of government imposters (Consumer Action)

Couple taking selfie
Online privacy and security can seem daunting and confusing. We've broken it down into a few topics we thought would be most helpful. Have more ideas? Let us know in the comments.

How to evaluate a website

Get the privacy you want on social media

How to protect yourself on public wi-fi

7 ways to identify a phishing scam

Email phishing scams and how to avoid them

Beyond privacy: digital inclusion

 

 

mother and son on beach
What is too much information on social media?

Ask yourself whether the information could be used against you. For example, if you share vacation photos while you're away, someone could break into your empty house knowing you're gone. If you share photos when partying hard, those photos may be seen by a future potential employer. If you make a new phone number available, your ex may find it. 

Here are some tips to maintain the privacy that you want on your social media accounts:

  • Use strong passwords.
  • Update your accounts regularly.
  • Don’t accept people you don’t know as friends.
  • Keep personal things personal and limit sharing to the people you want to see them rather than making everything “public.”
  • Be wary of strange messages or links from friends. People can pretend to be a friend, or maybe your friends’ account has been hacked.

Here are some useful links:

Information from The Center for Identity on privacy settings

Facebook privacy settings

Facebook privacy settings video

Messenger privacy settings

YouTube privacy settings

Instagram privacy settings

Twitter privacy settings

SnapChat privacy settings

 

More ways to protect yourself online.

Getting online at the library, a coffee shop or a hotel is convenient, but what about security and privacy?

Anyone who is up to no good can monitor your activity on public wi-fi. Hackers easily get software that makes this possible. Your personal information, private documents, contacts, photos, even your login credentials can be seen. This information can be used to access your accounts, impersonate you or steal your identity.

Public wi-fi includes open networks (which don’t require a password) and semi-open networks (which do, but anyone can log on).

Take precautions

  • If possible, wait until you can use a network you know is secure to check email or do online banking or shopping. They all involve sending passwords and personal information.
  • When you do use public wi-fi, check that you are connecting to the correct network. A coffee shop’s wi-fi may be named espresso1, but someone could have set up a false wi-fi and named it freecoffee. If you login to freecoffee, all your information will flow through the hacker’s computer.
  • Look for https in the address bar. This means that the site is encrypted. A hacker can still intercept your information, but it will now be harder to read and use. Every page of a website should be encrypted. If you find yourself on an unencrypted page, log out right away.
  • Change your computer’s wi-fi settings to public and turn off file sharing.
  • Limit your time. Stay logged into wi-fi only while you need it.
  • Sign out of accounts. Log out when you are done.
  • Keep your computer and security software up to date. Pay attention to warnings that a site is unsafe.
  • Do not use the same passwords for different websites. If someone gains access to one of your accounts, they won’t have access to your other accounts.
  • Consider changing settings so your mobile device does not automatically connect to wi-fi.
  • Your phone’s cellular data is much more secure than public wi-fi. If in doubt use cellular.

VPN

If you regularly access online accounts through wi-fi hotspots, using a virtual private network (VPN) may be a good idea. VPNs encrypt traffic between your computer and the internet, even on unsecured networks. You can get a personal VPN account from a VPN service provider. Some organizations create VPNs to provide secure, remote access for their employees. VPN options are also available for mobile devices; they can encrypt information you send through mobile apps.

More resources

Tips for Using Public Wi-Fi Networks (Federal Trade Commission) 

VPN Beginner's Guide (The Best VPN) 

More topics

More ways to protect yourself online.
 

From: trustme@yourorgc.om
To:you@yourorg.com
Date: Monday May 5, 2018 3:30 am
Subject: Act now to avoid irreparable consequenses!!!!!!!!

Hello Sparky,

Due to the iregular fiscal quarter, we will need to upload our monthly reports early and to a different server. Click on this link spreadsheet or the attatchment below to upload your financial reports. Keep up the good work!

Sincerely,

Todd Goodatmanagement Esq.
CEO- Your Org


Consider the above email. Anything seem odd? Out of place? Abnormal? Too good to be true? Go with your gut! 

Criminals running phishing scams are crafty chameleons who excel at impersonating agencies and authorities in order to trick you into releasing valuable data. Email is a very common medium for these con artists. Be suspicious of any email out of the ordinary. Look closely at the following items to protect yourself. 


1. From: Is the sender’s email address from a suspicious domain? Is this not someone you usually communicate with?

2. To: Were you cc’d on this email but don’t recognize the other names who received it? Is there an unusually large amount of people in the To field? Do all the names start with the same letter?

3. Date: Did you receive the email during regular business hours? Did you receive it suspiciously late at night?

4. Subject: Does the subject line seem unrelated to the content of the email? Are there misspellings? Is the message a reply to something you never sent or requested?

5. Content: Is the sender asking you to click on a link or attachment to avoid a negative consequence or gain something of value? Is the email asking you to look at a compromising picture of you or someone you know? Are there misspellings and bad grammar? Do you get a gut feeling that something is not right?

6. Hyperlinks: Remember, "hover to discover." Hover your cursor over the link without clicking to display the full web address. Is it what the email claims? Is it slightly different than an address you know? Is the email just a hyperlink?

7. Attachments: Is this attachment unexpected or seems to not relate to the message? Is it an odd file type? The only file type that is always safe to click on is a txt file.


Want some more info? Check out these articles:

The Motherboard Guide to Not Getting Hacked

Protect Yourself from W-2 Phishing Scams

Netflix Phishing Scam Provokes Police Warning

Ecommerce: Is it truly safe?

 

And of course, your library has hundreds of books to arm yourself with.

More ways to protect yourself online.

 

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