Although today is National Data Privacy Day, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin reminds all Rhode Islanders that it is important to take steps to protect your privacy online every day.
"Our computers, mobile devices and gaming stations can store and send large amounts of personal information such as passwords, credit card information, bank account information, your physical location, shopping habits and much more. Taking time to check your privacy settings and limit what information you provide online may thwart a criminal from stealing your identity and compromising your finances," said Attorney General Kilmartin.
Attorney General Kilmartin offers the following tips:
Cyber Hardware o Protect all of your hardware (computer, mobile devices, gaming stations, etc.). Make sure you have updated anti-virus, anti- malware, firewalls and updated browsers installed on all of your hardware. Also make sure you back up your computer files.
o Create unique and difficult to guess passwords for all of your accounts (smartphone, tablet, computer, bank account password, etc.). Do not use the same password for all of your accounts. Make it difficult for a criminal to figure out your password. Use as many characters as allowed and include numbers, symbols, letters (capital and lower case). Write down and store your passwords in a safe non-digital location.
o Keep your mobile security software current. Most software programs will automatically update versions of their program to protect it from risks. If available, turn "On" automatic updates.
o Smart phones, tablets and some digital cameras have information embedded when you take a photo and share it. Your photos can also provide the time, date, latitude and longitude of where the photo is taken. According to a recent article by the FBI, you might unknowingly be allowing others to know where you live and work, as well as your habits and social patterns when you send a photograph. Check your options/settings on your mobile device to see if you are sharing location information. If you want to disable this feature, consult your phone manufacturer's guidelines.
o Think before you text. Remember, text messages can be forwarded.
WiFi Hot Spots: o WiFi hot spots are sites that offer Internet access over a wireless local area network through a router linked to an Internet service provider. Many coffee shops, hotels, restaurants, bookstores, airports, etc. offer WiFi hot spots. While WiFi hot spots can be convenient, precautions should be used.
o If you use mobile devices in a WiFi Hot Spot, use security settings and firewalls. Check off "Block all incoming traffic."
o Adjust the security settings on your mobile devices to limit who can access your information.
o Disable "file sharing."
o Check with the venue's employees to confirm the name of their network. Cybercriminals might set up false networks with names that sound similar to the venue you are using in hopes you will jump onto their network.
o Even if a WiFi Hot Spot requires a password or guides you through a login screen, keep in mind that you are still at risk to a cybercriminal trying to gain access to your data, passwords and account information.
o Limit the type of business you conduct. Assume others can see anything you can see or send over the network.
o Make sure you use secure sites. Use https (not http).
Social Networking: o Keep your personal information private. The more information you post, the easier it is for a criminal to steal your personal information and your identity.
o Use tools to manage the information you share with friends in different groups.
o Online Shopping:
o Set privacy and security settings on websites. It is your right to limit who you share information with.
o Be cautious of emails and text messages that seek personal information. These types of emails are known as "phishing" attempts.
o Do not give any personal information to someone you don't know who emails or sends you a text message offering to assist you.
About the Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Unit The Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Unit investigates and mediates consumer complaints concerning unfair and unlawful business practices and misleading advertising arising out of alleged violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. If groups of people are victimized by a deceptive trade practice, this office may file in the Superior Court a civil investigative demand, which is a formal investigation. In appropriate cases, a lawsuit to stop the illegal business practice may be initiated.
Apart from carrying out its statutory responsibilities, the Unit also provides information and referral services to the general public. Consumers are directed to the appropriate governmental or private agencies for help in answering specialized questions or resolving disputes that are not within the Unit's jurisdiction.
The Consumer Protection Unit is available to speak to community groups on how to prevent being a victim of identity theft and other scams. For more information, please visit www.riag.ri.gov or call 401-274-4400.