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Tips for keeping info safe on your computer

Summer has been full of fallout from the Veterans Administration computer theft of vital data from perhaps millions of military veterans and active personnel.

You may not have your computer stolen, but there are other ways your private information can be accessed.

“When you buy things online,” for example, “the information you enter is saved temporarily in your machine,” said Roger Alexander, associate professor, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “Software installed in your computer without your knowledge can capture that information and later sell it for illegal use.”

He shares these tips for keeping your information safe:

• Send personal information encrypted. Install software to encrypt messages.

• Do not store personal data unless it’s encrypted.

• When buying online, don’t share credit card numbers or other information with people out of the U.S. or with businesses you don’t know anything about.

• Never use a primary account or card. Have a secondary bank account with only enough money to cover your online transactions.

• Use PayPal accounts. Most business will accept PayPal and it is a free service for the buyer. Remember, however, to keep your PayPal password safe, too.

• Don’t share personal information with anyone you don’t know — over the phone or online

• Know that information sent in the body of an e-mail or instant message is not secure, unless encrypted.

• Do not open attachments or e-mail links from organizations saying that your account has been compromised. Instead, contact the organization and let them know about the message. In many instances they will ask you to forward them the message to help them track down illegal use of their name.

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