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Computer privacy has become a major concern over the years because computers have become a part of our everyday lives. As technology advances, the risks to privacy increase. However, there are steps that a person can take to make sure that they and their information stays private and safe in this technological age.
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While this is generally a personal choice, there are certain things that everyone should strive to keep private. First, passwords and usernames. If a password gets into the wrong hands, it could result in identity theft at the worst or simple account manipulations that you would have to take the time to fix. Both are harmful.
Account information is something else to keep private. This would of course include passwords and usernames, but it goes further. It would also include account numbers, account balances (such as bank or debt balances), personal contact information (address, phone number and email) and any other information exclusive to the account or account holder. Just one piece of information could allow a person to gain access and cause trouble.
Other things to keep private are social security numbers, birth dates, medical records, all financial information, residential and employer information and all related information. For those who wish to be extra safe, it is a good idea to not expose a real last name on the computer either unless it's necessary, such as when paying a bill.
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How to Keep it Private
First and foremost, never walk away from your computer when you have private information displayed on the screen. It only takes a second for a person to look over and snag your personal information. Always log out and close all windows and programs before walking away.
Secondly, always log out of a website once you are finished using it. Even sites like Facebook (and set your Facebook security settings). Once you are done doing any business you had, click “log out” and wait for the page to refresh to make sure you are completely logged out. Then, type in another site address. You can use any site, including a search engine. You just want to completely get off of the site you logged off of to be extra safe. Also make sure to disable any automatic login features. Some will automatically save your information unless you tell them not to, so pay extra close attention to this.
Third, be aware of your surroundings. Just make sure no one is peeking over your shoulder or paying extra attention to you and you work on your computer.
Fourth, erase your tracks. Once you are done doing what you need to do delete your history and temporary internet files. Delete any photos and files you no longer need and then empty your recycling bin (located on your desktop). Also, double check to make sure none of your passwords were stored.
Finally, always try to avoid public computers when you need to perform tasks that require you to enter private information. Most public computers, especially public libraries, go to great lengths to ensure that their computers are safe, but hackers who are determined may still find a way in. To make sure your information is safe, the best way is to avoid public computers altogether if you can.
The above tips are especially critical if you are using a public computer or are using your personal laptop in a public place. Also, if you are using a computer, either public or personal, in a public place make sure the connection is secure. Before inputting any passwords or private information, look at the browser and it should say “https”. Make sure that “s” is present. If it just says, “http”, you may not have a secure connection.
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Kinkus, J.F. (2002). Computer Security. Retrieved on April 28, 2011 from Purdue University: http://www.library.ucsb.edu/istl/02-fall/internet.html
Granick, J. (2007). Computer Privacy in Distress. Retrieved on April 28, 2011 from Wired: http://www.wired.com/politics/law/commentary/circuitcourt/2007/01/72510
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