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Digital Literacy: Netiquette and Internet Safety

Tips and resources for practicing online etiquette and safety.

Recommended Reading

Staying Safe Online

Online safety refers to the considerations of the risks associated with using and sharing information in electronic environments.

To learn more about the history and overview of online safety, we recommend the following Research Starter:

Tips for Protecting Your Information Online

In a world where much of our personal data is stored electronically, there is no one perfect method for controlling and preserving your personal information. You can, however, take steps to minimize theft and fraud. These steps include:

  • Limit personal and professional information

Remove information like birth date and birth year, phone number, home address, employer, and contacts from public-facing social media profiles. This can prevent someone from hijacking information from your social media account in order to pretend to be you.

  • Turn on your privacy settings

Most social media platforms include privacy settings which lock down your social media and browsing activities. Many apps have these features as well. Utilize privacy settings in the platforms you use, and keep your content locked down. Pay specific attention to quizzes and add-ons which ask to access certain information in your social media profile. This is one way in which hackers can bypass privacy settings.

  • Practice safe browsing habits

Avoid sites with lurid content. Sites with questionable content can install malware on your system and/or expose your personal data to hackers. 

  • Use a secure network

Only transmit private information, such as credit card numbers, over a secure network. Public networks are easily hacked. When you connect to a public network, your device may be accessed by other devices already connected to the network. This can expose every bit of information saved on your computer to theft.

  • Watch what you download

Use your anti-virus software to scan files before you download them. Avoid downloading apps or programs from sites you do not know or trust. 

  • Keep your anti-virus up to date

Anti-virus software can be costly, but a badly infected computer can have far-reaching impacts. Set your anti-virus software to run periodic updates. Do not ignore notification messages for anti-virus renewals or updates. Installing updates on your anti-virus software will help the program look for new potential threats it may not otherwise find without the update.

  • Choose strong passwords

Avoid password combinations which are easy to guess. A strong password will be alphanumeric (including both letters and numbers) and may contain symbols. Many sites have pre-determined password requirements in order for you to access your information, while other sites may allow you to select your own password without any rules in place. Avoid using the same password for multiple sites. If you have trouble remembering passwords, write them on paper and keep them secured.

  • Only enter financial information on secure sites

You can determine whether a site is secure by looking at the link. If it begins with https: it is secure. If it begins with http: it is not secure. Look for other clues in your browser's address bar, such as a padlock icon, to indicate a site's security level.

  • Be careful who you meet online

Remember that not everyone you meet online is truthful about their identity. Fake social media accounts are a perfect way for hackers to bypass your security settings and get access to the things you only let "friends" see. Be diligent in who you allow to see that private information.

Who to Contact

What if you suspect identity theft? We recommend the following resources:

If you discover that your personal information has been compromised, you should also:

  • Follow the protocols for reporting fraudulent social media activity, and warn others about the breach.
  • If your financial accounts have been compromised, file a local police report.
  • Review information for other financial accounts to make sure they were not also compromised, and report any suspicious activity.
  • Contact your financial institutions to notify them of fraudulent activity.
  • Request a credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies periodically to help catch identity theft, and especially after a theft occurs. You get one free credit report through each agency per calendar year.

Fraud can be costly in terms of money and time. Some credit card companies and banks offer free fraud protection. Inquire about the service and, if it's available, sign up for it to help catch issues quickly.