In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, we are reminded of the importance of re-evaluating our security procedures, but we also must be conscious of another challenge: the threat to our personal information from cyber attacks.

Cyber intrusions, most recently from hackers with Chinese Internet protocol addresses, have compromised the safety of our personal information on our computers. Just the other day, a fake tweet sent by hackers from the Associated Press’ Twitter account was able to briefly send the stock market into a freefall.

With this in mind, I would like to outline a few things you can do on your computers at home to protect your privacy online and make sure computer hackers and spammers cannot access your personal accounts or information. The following information applies to your e-mail and social media accounts:

1. Use a strong password. Your password should be something that is not easy to guess. The longer the password, the safer your personal information. Passwords should have uppercase and lowercase characters, numbers and punctuation marks. Some sites will tell you how strong a password is so you know how well-protected your account is.

2. Connect your mobile device to your accounts. Adding your social media and e-mail accounts to your mobile device will require that any password changes need to be confirmed by you through that device before they become effective. It is an additional layer of protection that is worth the extra text message or e-mail you will receive from time to time to confirm changes.

3. Be careful what you click on and where you enter information. A lot of hackers send e-mails and messages that look legitimate and ask for your passwords and other personal information. This is called “phishing.” Hackers are good at making fake websites that look identical to the legitimate ones, so it is important to be careful what you click on.

4. Never give out your password. No employee of any company will contact you through phone or e-mail to ask for your password. If this happens to you, call the company and report it.

5. Download free anti-virus software and scan regularly. Anti-virus software is available and free online. You should perform a virus scan on your computer every few weeks. Some good programs are Avast or AVG, which can be downloaded at avast.com and free.avg.com.

Steve Israel

U.S. Representative


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