Consumers are already aware of basic techniques to protect themselves from abusive email messages, such as don't give out your email address randomly, think twice before opening messages if you don't know the source and automatically send suspect mail to a spam or bulk folder. Given this increasing variety of spam, how can consumers best protect themselves in an increasingly complex environment?
Message Systems offers a few valuable tips to help thwart spam and protect your online privacy:
Be judicious with whom you share your personal data. Incidents of data loss continue to rise despite increased security measures. Check to see if a company adheres to the OTA’s data privacy and protection principles. The OTA, along with a coalition of industry and business organizations, recently developed the Data Breach and Incident Readiness Planning Guide, a framework to assist businesses and government agencies in establishing data governance and incident plans to increase consumer protection.
Keep kids safe with another layer of protection. Protecting children from offensive messages and images is always a top priority. Consider reconfiguring your email software to prevent automatic rendering of images and links when messages are opened. Parents should also consider installing PC-based software to add an extra layer of protection for their children and monitor their activity for unsafe online practices.
Install software updates. Software vendors regularly provide updates to correct discovered security issues with their applications, such as gaps that might allow cyber criminals to access your data. Keep your operating system, applications, Internet browser and spam/virus filters up to date. Set your system preferences to automatically check for updates at a certain day and time each week, and to remind you to install them. Don't forget to select a day and time that you are likely to be online; otherwise you will not receive the updates or reminders.
Secure your home network. Use a wireless network at home? Make certain that you password protect your network. Otherwise, others may access and use your network for free. If your home computers are networked together to share information, anyone accessing your network can access information on the shared computers or use your computers to send spam.
Friends don't send friends chain email. Don't send chain email. For instance, when you receive an email with a funny joke, don't forward it to everyone that you know. Chain email is a top conduit to spread viruses. If you care about your friends, don't infect their PCs. And if you are the recipient of such a message, don't open it. Delete it without reading it.