Practice Basic Cyber Hygiene

How do you protect your privacy and safeguard your electronic transactions?

Posted in . More ways to protect yourself

Do’s and Don’t of CYBER HYGIENE

Would you use a stranger’s toothbrush or contact lens? Do you let someone off the street meander through your house? Your Internet-connected devices require the same level of protection, or “hygiene.”


  1. Don’t click on attachments: Email phishing scams try to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment that downloads malware onto your computer.
  2. Don’t use debit cards online: Look for the lock symbol or https in the website url indicating that transactions are secure. Don’t use a public computer or public wireless. Only use credit cards, not debit cards, since the Fair Credit Billing Act protects credit cards and may limit your liability if someone else uses it.
  3. Don’t connect External Devices don’t belong to you to connect to your equipment. Think of them as someone else’s toothbrushes.
  4. Don’t use weak passwords or the same password for different accounts: Strong passwords (the longer, the better) have a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters.
  5. Don’t use Admin accounts: Administrator or “Admin” accounts have more control over computer programs and settings. Hackers can potentially access and control your computer through these accounts. Non-Administrator or guest accounts can still use programs, but limit hackers’ ability to make change. Change the default password on Admin accounts and always run your computer as a non-administrator or non-admin unless otherwise needed.


  1. Update systems and software: System and software vendors fix vulnerabilities with each update. Non-updated computers are exposed to attacks through these vulnerabilities. Set programs and systems that can access the Internet to auto- update.
  2. Protect and Secure Mobile Devices: Create a password and enable screen lock or auto lock on all devices. If your device has Bluetooth that’s not used, disable the setting. Some devices are Bluetooth-enabled by default. If Bluetooth functionality is used, make change the default password for connecting to a Bluetooth-enabled device. Encrypt data and data transmissions.
  3. Enable Firewall: A firewall is a software program or hardware device that filters inbound and outbound traffic between your network or computer and the Internet. Firewalls can block intruders and unwanted traffic from entering.
  4. Use anti-virus and anti-spyware programs to stop viruses, worms, and other malware. Anti-spyware programs can stop malware that perform actions like pop-up advertising, collecting personal information, or changing your computer’s configuration. Keep the license active and the program set to auto-update.
  5. Secure wireless networks: Wireless networks are less secure than “wired” ones. Encrypt, change the default password, change the Service Set Identified (SSID) name (your network name) and turn off SSID broadcasting and use the MAC filtering feature. That allows you to designate and restrict which computers can connect to your wireless network.


Check out the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse’s series of fact sheets at

Other organizations offer current information on issues pertaining to privacy and information technology. Here are some of my favorites.

Support their work by volunteering or making a donation.


Center for Democracy & Technology

Center for Digital Democracy

Center for National Security Studies

Consumer Watchdog

Electronic Privacy Information Center

Electronic Frontier Foundation

First Amendment Center

Patient Privacy Rights

Privacy International


Tech Freedom