Cyber security is a growing field, but every day hackers exploit many individuals who do not have the experience to keep themselves safe. While I encourage everyone to learn about cyber security, I know that in-depth security is beyond many people. For those who do not understand the Internet fully, here are some tips to keep your identity and personal information safe.

Do not save your personal information to your desktop.

Many people save their personal information in a word document, but this is an easy target for hackers. If you have a virus on your computer, hackers can get in and search through your files to try to find this information to use against you. Credit card info, addresses, Social Security numbers, and passwords should never be saved to your desktop, and should instead be stored in a secure physical location. For example, a password ledger can be stored in a notebook in a locked drawer. This way, hackers have limited information about you and will be less likely to cause damage.

If it seems too good to be true, stay away.

You may occasionally stumble upon a website that claims you have won a giveaway. You may also receive a friend request from a celebrity, or someone may ask you for personal information so they can wire you money. If you do not personally know the individual and have an agreement outside of the Internet, do not give in to this tactic. These attacks can seem harmless at first, but tend to have damaging consequences if you provide any information. In fact, if you are contacted in one of these ways, responding can open up vulnerabilities. Do not engage in any way.

Double-check URLs.

Hackers are becoming increasingly smart and have begun creating fake websites to phish for your information. Make sure that you are going to the correct website by carefully reading the URL before and after you go to the site. Also, try not to use Google to search for a site. Phishers can use advertisements to steal your info by having their fake websites appear above the legitimate results. If you find that you are on a fake website, exit the window and open up a new browser window before trying again.

Make your passwords secure.

Having a common password is one of the fastest ways to have your identity and personal information stolen. Do not use anything similar to “qwerty”, “password”, “12345”, or other basic passwords. Instead, use a random jumble of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special symbols (such as ! or @). Make sure to write down your password in a notebook so you do not lose it. Also, create different passwords for each site you visit. It will take longer to enter these sites, but your accounts will be more secure this way.

Staying 100% safe is impossible on the Internet, but you can avoid becoming an easy target by following these four simple rules. At the end of the day, Internet safety is like staying safe in a bad neighborhood. You can avoid many attacks by being vigilant, but nothing is guaranteed.