Here are three things you can do to protect yourself from spam and other electronic threats:
- Protect Your Computer and Electronic Devices
- Protect Your Electronic (Email) Addresses
- Protect Yourself
Protect Your Computer and Electronic Devices
Keep your software and operating system up to date on your computer or electronic device.
Make sure you have anti-spam, anti-virus and firewall protection on your computer and electronic device(s) and keep them up to date.
- Anti-spam software can scan email before it is received and automatically get rid of known spam. Web-based email services from your Email Service Provider (ESP) or Internet Service Provider (ISP) generally filter spam before it reaches your inbox.
- An anti-virus program protects against malicious software such as malware, adware, spyware, viruses, and Trojans.
- Firewall protection helps control traffic to and from your computer or device. Make sure to choose a firewall that provides both incoming and outgoing protection.
This type of security software can be all purchased from a security software company. Look for a reputable company and do not accept offers made through suspicious types of solicitation, such as random phone calls, pop-up advertisements, etc. These could be fraudulent or contain malware.
You may also find firewall protection through the Operating System (OS) of your computer or device.
You can also enable a hardware firewall. This comes through an external device, such as a router that comes with built-in firewall components which you can enable.
When your computer is not being used, another way to protect yourself is to turn it off and disconnect from the Internet. Many spammers are using sophisticated programs which find and exploit unprotected computers that have been left turned on and connected to the Internet.
Using Wi-Fi Networks:
Many public places such as coffee shops, airports and libraries offer access to free Wi-Fi Internet networks for users of electronic devices such as cellphones, smartphones or laptop computers. Connecting to public networks can pose some risks. Here are some easy tips to follow to help protect yourself and reduce your risks while you are connected to Wi-Fi networks:
- Make sure you’re on the correct network. Fake or “evil twin” hotspots are sometimes created in the same location as legitimate hotspots, and it can be very difficult to recognize if you are on the wrong network. Therefore, before connecting, check the name of the network with the host (for example, at a coffee shop ask at the counter for the network name and password if there is one).
- Never surf without enabling your firewall.
- Some websites, such as email provider and social network sites give you the option to always use encryption while on those sites to scramble and protect your data. If that option is available, enable the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or HTTPS setting to increase your security. You will likely find these options under the “privacy” or “account” settings of the site.
- Where they are available, visit the secure HTTPS version of sites and not the unsecure, regular HTTP site—in particular when you are making transactions and exchanging sensitive data. Be mindful of the URL in the address bar while you’re exchanging sensitive data—if the ‘S’ disappears you should log out right away.
- Try to avoid doing things such as online banking or exchanging sensitive information while on public Wi-Fi networks. Remember that once you are on the network, it is much easier for anyone else on the network to see what you are doing.
- If you find yourself using public Wi-Fi a lot, a virtual private network (VPN) could make sense. It will direct all your web activity through a secure, independent network that encrypts and protects all your data. However, if you can simply avoid exchanging sensitive data while on public Wi-Fi networks—for example, waiting until you are on your secure home network—then a VPN is likely not necessary for you.
- If you’re using your computer or device in a public Wi-Fi zone, but you’re not on the Internet, it doesn’t hurt to turn the Wi-Fi function off on your device. Doing so could prevent a spammer from connecting to your device.
- If you have Wi-Fi Internet in your home, make sure you enable, at a minimum, wireless encryption and password protection.
Protect Your Electronic (Email) Addresses
Use a primary email address for your trusted personal and business contacts.
Create a secondary email address for use in online activities, such as filling out forms or joining communities. This address may be changed if you start getting too much spam.
If posting your email address to a website, do not use the ‘@’ symbol, instead use a format such as “jane at myDomain dot com”. This can help prevent “spambot” software often used to extract email addresses, from recognizing it.
Use Caution and Judgment
Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure whether or not a message is safe. If it looks suspicious, it may be malicious spam. The best you can do is to reduce your risk by using your judgment and following these tips.
- Don’t try or buy a product or service being advertised in a message you receive from a sender you don’t know.
- Don’t reply to spam if the message seems at all suspicious to you. Never reply to, or click on a “remove” or “unsubscribe” link in a suspicious spam message. If you do respond, it can confirm your address and cause you to receive more spam.
- Once Canada’s new anti-spam law is in force, messages coming from businesses and organizations with whom you have a business relationship should have a working “remove” or “unsubscribe” link to tell the sender that you no longer wish to receive their messages.
- Never visit websites advertised in a suspicious spam message, and, in particular, beware of links in such emails. They are not necessarily what they appear to be and may take you to a different website without you realizing it. If you do decide to visit a website that appears in a suspicious message, it’s better to type the address in your web browser yourself.
- Attachments included in emails may have software that could harm your computer’s performance or steal your personal information. Malicious software may corrupt your computer or take over your email account so as to send viruses to other people. Only open attachments in emails from someone you know.
- Fraudsters can also make messages look like they come from people or organizations you know; this is called “spoofing”. If you are unsure about an email message, don’t open it. Use an alternative method of contact to reach the sender. Look up the contact information for the organization on their website, in the phone book or on printed correspondence you may have from them—the contact information provided in the original email could be false.
Develop Good Practices
Use alphanumeric passwords that use a combination of numbers, character symbols and letters in upper and lower case. This makes it hard for others to guess your password. (Example: User name: JohnRobert, Password: An!C4nadi*n).
Always ensure your anti-virus software is enabled to scan any files you download from the Internet onto your computer.
When downloading any content onto your computer or electronic device from the Internet, use caution and only do so from websites that you know and trust. This includes apps for your cellphone or smartphone.
Report fraud caused by spam and other electronic threats. If you are a victim of fraud, report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, your local police, the credit bureaus and your bank so they are aware of the situation.