11/20/19 -- atpladmin


No matter who you are or how you use the Internet – from shopping to banking to staying in touch – this guide can help you to become a cybersmart user by taking proactive actions to protect your personal information online.  The first section gives practical tips about how to better secure your accounts, operating systems, network, devices, and adopt safe Internet browsing and emailing habits. The next section showcases an array of library resources about cybersafety. Contact the reference staff at 215-885-5180 ext. 113 with questions or concerns. 

Passwords and Two-factor Authentication (2FA)

Turn on 2FA   - Access these free, online tutorials about how to set up 2FA (two-factor authentication)  for your various types of online accounts, such as email, social media, and banking. Turning on 2FA will greatly reduce the chances of a hacker or cybercriminal successfully impersonating you and  fraudulently using your accounts.  What  is 2FA?  Most websites rely on passwords to verify that a user trying to access an account is indeed the account owner. That kind of authentication relies on only “one” factor and makes accounts vulnerable. 2FA adds another layer of security beyond passwords.  If 2FA is setup, then the user must verify themselves with a combination of something they have (chipped credit card or cell phone), something they know (PIN/code or answer to a security question), and/or something they are (biometric like scanned fingerprint, facial or voice recognition).  Cybersecurity experts claim that using authenticator applications gives users the most protection. 

 Download Updates

  • Keep vigilant about updating your operating systems and applications with the latest software patches. When companies discover vulnerabilities in their products, they issue patches (updated software or code) to fix these vulnerabilities.  Set your accounts to auto-update, so you do not forget to do it manually. Otherwise, you increase your risk of being breached by a cybercriminal.
  • Do not trust unexpected pop-up screens that prompt or pressure you to download software or updates. 

Network security

  • Avoid free or “unsecure” Wifi for sensitive transactions. Instead, use your cellular data, enabled phone or tablet or a personal hotspot. Check out a T-Mobile Wifi hotspot from the library.
  • Alternately, use a virtual private network (VPN) service for sensitive transactions. A VPN extends a private network to your device on a public network. Your sensitive data will be encrypted and virtually impenetrable. The free Wifi network you find at public places like your local coffee shop, library, or airport should not be trusted.

Device security

  • Lock devices by adding a PIN (personal identification number) , passcode, or biometric to the start screen.
  • Do sensitive tasks on dedicated and trusted devices via VPNs.
  • Turn off your Wifi when not using it. Mac addresses (unique to whatever device you are using) can be detected via wireless probe, and the user’s identity can be figured out and possibly traced. 

Browsing habits

  • Always look at the website address bar (also known as the location or "URL" bar) at the top of the browsers to make sure it is the right site.
  • Look for the padlock icon and “https” (which means hypertext transfer protocol secure) in the address bar on any website requesting personal or sensitive financial data like credit card or banking account information. 
  • Browse in private or incognito mode and delete your cache after each browsing season, especially on public computers. Leave no trace of your identity or Internet activity on a computer.

Email habits

  • Be alert for “phishing” emails.  Phishing is a con game used to trick online users to reveal personal information, allowing their accounts to be used fraudulently.  If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.  Do not click on suspicious emails from unknown sender or known sender.
  • Beware of “reputable” emails asking for private information like your SSN (social security number)  or financial information. Call and verify with the direct source rather than click the emailed link or attachment.
  • Always log off your account when work is complete. 

Additional Resources 

Cybersmarts - Using hands-on activities designed for children, these interactive e-books allow families to help teach their youngest members about online safety and privacy. Five important topics covered are: cyberbullying, online predators, privacy, social media, and gaming. 

Hoopla – Read eBooks and eAudiobooks about cybersecurity ranging from pursuing a career in computer security to tips on how businesses and individuals can be safe online.  Abington card holders can sign up or connect to hoopla. 

RBDigital - Access digital magazines on computers and technology.

Recommended Books - browse this online list or “snapshot” of suggested books to delve deeper into this topic.  Click any book jacket in the snapshot page to find out where the book is located in the Montgomery County library system and to read a description.



“152 Simple steps to stay safe online: security advice for non-tech-savvy-users” Reeder, R.W., Ion, I and Consolvo, S. IEEE Computer Security and Privacy, October/September 2017, pp.  55-64.


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