Stay safe online

Do you write sometimes in public spaces–cafes, trains or train stations, airports or schools? 

If you write with a pencil or pen and a notebook, good for you! All you have to worry about is making sure to take them with you when you go.

If you write on a laptop, though, and use wifi sometimes while you work, you should know a few basic security rules.


You might think no one would want to steal your information. But tens of thousands of normal people are victims of identity theft each year. If you are one, or know someone who has had this happen, you know that it takes months of hassles to get back to a normal life, and thousands of pounds (if you have them!) can disappear from your bank account.

Basic Rules

All these tips apply to mobile phones and tablets as well as laptops. 

First, turn off the wifi if you're not using it. No one can hack your wifi if it's off.

The most important thing to remember when you use public wifi is that it is inherently more unsafe. Keep in mind that thieves may be trying to find your info while you are innocently working away.

Once you do go online:

An important difference between URLs (at the top of the web page)

–Try not to log in to any website that doesn't have https: in the URL. The s signifies that it's a secure site that will protect your information. There should be a tiny icon of a lock in front of the https:

–Don't connect to just any public network. Before you decide to use a free public wifi network, check with the place where you are to make sure of its name. One chief way identity thieves work is to pretend their spoof network is the public one. (This is called a 'man-in-the-middle' attack.) 

–Many times public wifi providers demand your email address. They plan to use it or sell it. If you use public wifi a lot, it's worth having an email address you use only for this. There are plenty of free places to get another email address, including Gmail (I recommend not using Yahoo!). This will protect your normal email address. 

When any one asks me how I can best describe my experiences of nearly forty years at sea I merely say uneventful. Of course, there have been Winter gales and storms and fog and the like, but in all my experience I have never been in an accident of any sort worth speaking about...I never saw a wreck and have never been wrecked, nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort...I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel.
   –Captain E.J. Smith of the Titanic, just before sailing. A classic victim of 'It can't happen to me!' 

–When you leave the place, log out of the public wifi and make your device 'forget' the network.

–Using Wikipedia or Google search or YouTube shouldn't cause any problems. But don't log in to your bank account or any other sensitive site while on public wifi. Don't share sensitive information or pay bills or buy things online while on public wifi. Don't use any website that stores your credit or debit card information. Try not to use social media while on public wifi. 

Turn off 'sharing' on your computer, and make sure your firewall is turned on. (Here is a great link that tells you how to do that on Windows or Macs) 

You don't think anyone is watching, but be careful anyway.

                                                More Good Ideas

–On your social media profiles, check your privacy settings. For example, on Facebook, your cover photo and your profile photo are forced to be public, but you can control the privacy of everything else. It's better not to put your phone number, your real address, your complete birthday (at least leave off the year), photos of your home or where you work, and other such sensitive information in your profile when that is accessible to anyone online. Identity theft in the UK more than doubled last year. Also, if you have a profile on a social media site, check it from time to time. Identity thieves prefer to target people who don't seem to use the profiles.

–Make sure your computer's operating system is up to date.

Of course, the easiest way to stay safe on your laptop while in public is to close up the wifi and write... and write and write! 


Julie Sullivan

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