Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Consumers Encouraged to Protect Their Privacy Online

/PRNewswire/ -- The Internet offers an exciting world of information and entertainment at the click of a mouse. Consumers are spending hours surfing, shopping, playing games and communicating online, but as with any activity, it is important to put security, privacy and safety first. As U.S. businesses and consumers mark tomorrow, January 28, 2010, as National Data Privacy Day, consumers are encouraged to examine how they currently protect themselves online, and what steps they can take to ensure their privacy is secure when connecting through a mobile device, home broadband or any other Internet connection.

"Technology is such an important part of our lives, and we must use it responsibly by protecting our personal information," said Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. "Any information you post online can never fully be removed, so guard your information very carefully and never share it with strangers or enter into unfamiliar Web sites."

The Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe), Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and AT&T offer the following important tips for consumers to protect their privacy online:

What happens online stays online...forever. The Internet helps us enhance our social and civic lives. As you post the picture from spring break, or share your most intimate details or views, remember many Web sites and social networks are public, and information posted online is often permanent and searchable.

Know with whom you are sharing information online. Social media sites, chat rooms and other online forums can be anonymous, and some people may be pretending to be someone they are not. Be as suspicious of a stranger online as you are of strangers in public places.

Review privacy policies, privacy settings and profile preferences. Be cautious of giving out personal information, particularly your Social Security number and names of family members, unless you are familiar with the company and its Web site privacy policy. Many companies, like AT&T, have made it easier to understand their policies.

Keep virus and spyware protection up to date and in place. Computer viruses often look like something they are not - such as a picture, screen saver or even a Web link. Some spyware programs can track everything you do online and send this information to an unauthorized user, leaving you vulnerable to identity theft. Antivirus and spyware protection programs scan and monitor your computer for viruses and spyware and then alert you before damage occurs. AT&T offers its broadband customers the award-winning AT&T Internet Security Suite powered by McAfee®, which offers protection on up to 10 PCs and is included with qualifying plans.

Avoid sending sensitive personal data over public connections. Be aware that many public computers, such as those at the library and unsecured Wi-Fi connections can enable other users nearby to capture the information you are sending or receiving. If you have to use an unsecured or public connection, make sure the site is secure. The AT&T Wi-Fi network supports secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) access. If you have VPN, AT&T recommends that you connect through it for optimum security.

Never respond to e-mails or pop-ups asking for personal data or passwords. Use filtering software to help block unwanted e-mail and to reduce the likelihood of receiving viruses and spyware from unknown senders. Also use pop-up and ad-blocking features that let you control the quantity and type of pop-ups you receive or to block them completely.

Use a strong password for all devices and accounts. Use combinations of letters, numbers, upper and lower case characters, and symbols in your passwords. Change your passwords frequently.

Find Web sites on your own; don't use links in e-mails or on other sites. "Phishing," also known as "brand spoofing" or "carding," is a trick Internet scammers use to "fish" for consumers' financial information and password data using fake company e-mails and Web sites. Many companies, like AT&T, will not send e-mail requests to customers asking for personal account or credit card information. Instead of clicking the link in the e-mail, go to the site directly from your browser or search engine.

Look for signs that a Web site is secure before sending financial or personal data. Secure sites will often show a "lock" icon or there will be an "s" after the "http" ("https:///"). If you don't see these indications, then the site is probably not secure and you should carefully consider whether to send personal or financial data over the site.

Talk to your kids, teens and tweens. Teach children to never share their name, address, phone number, school name or any other personal information about their family while online.

Use the parental control tools available to make your job easier. Parental controls, such as AT&T's Smart Limits, enable you to establish sensible boundaries around the technology your family uses on a daily basis and to determine how and when your children can use their phone, computer or other connected device.

"I want to thank our state and community leaders who work every day to help keep consumers safe online," said Marshall Criser, III, AT&T Florida President "At AT&T, we are dedicated to promoting online safety awareness and education and providing our customers with the necessary tools to be safe and responsible digital citizens."

Last year, AT&T announced its support with the American School Counselor Association of iKeepSafe's Project PRO, an effort to teach students how to protect their privacy and reputation online. Project PRO enables school counselors, parents and teens to become an active part in managing a student's digital reputation through innovative educational resources such as video clips and training documents. To date, more than 4,200 educators and counselors throughout the country have sought out the curriculum.

"The Internet Keep Safe Coalition is thrilled to work with the Florida Attorney General and AT&T in commemoration of Data Privacy Day, and to join the effort in helping to raise awareness and educate the public on data safeguards," said iKeepSafe President Marsali Hancock. "We applaud Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum's efforts to expand awareness about the need to protect your security, privacy and safety to families nationwide. Let this Day serve as a catalyst for all of us to improve the way we manage our personal privacy online."

To help consumers have a safer online experience, AT&T offers a full library of supportive Internet safety and security tips as well as interactive safety games for children, all available at

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