Safety online

The internet is a great source of information, and email can be an excellent way to communicate with family and friends. But please be aware that someone who has access to your computer, may be able to see what sites you have visited, or read your emails.

Here are a few steps you can take to make it more difficult for someone to track your internet activities. Please be aware that these are by no means exhaustive, so if you’re in any way concerned about using your home computer, if possible use a computer at a public library, a school, an internet café, or at the home of a trusted friend.

Email

If you are using email software on your computer, anyone with access to your computer may be able to read you emails.

It’s good practice to delete sensitive emails that you send and receive. Make sure that you empty the Deleted Items folder or Trash folder in the mail software too.

If you are worried about the privacy of your email, you might want to set up a free web based email. Sites like Hotmail, Google’s GMail for example, offer free email accounts. And in using these services, your email messages will be stored on the Hotmail or GMail server instead of your own computer.

To further protect your email, choose a password that you will be able to remember, but that will be hard for someone else to guess. It’s best to make the password at least 8 characters long and made up of letters and numbers. Don’t be tempted write down the password – instead write down a hint to help you remember the password.

Disable cookies

Some websites track their visitors and their actions. One way to do this is to store small bits of information known as Cookies, on your computer. If a web site remembers you when you visit again for example, by displaying a name which you entered on a previous visit, it’s because it has stored a cookie on your computer. If your computer has cookies stored on it, someone may be able to identify sites you have visited.

You can set your browser to warn you before a cookie are written to your hard drive, and then decide whether to accept or reject it. Or you could set your computer to not accept cookies at all.

The exact method for doing this changes frequently and varies from browser to browser, so please Google the best methods for your browser version and platform (PC or Mac).

Some sites actually require cookies to be enabled in order to function properly, so disabling or deleting cookies may adversely affect their function.

Remove the browser cache and history

When you browse the internet, the software (browser) remembers where you’ve been. It logs the web page addresses in a History file and things like page content in a Cache file. Knowing what to look for (and where) makes it a relatively easy task to discover what web sites people have been using.

Many modern web browsers offer a ‘Private Browser’ feature. Once turned on, private browsing doesn’t record web history or log content in the cache. If the browser you use supports this feature, please use it. But make sure you read how this features works, how long it stays active and whether or not it does provide the protection you require. You may also need to remember to turn it off once you’re done to avoid attracting suspicion.

The best way to remove information about your internet activity is to clear the History file and empty the cache. The exact method for doing this changes frequently and varies from browser to browser, so please Google the best methods for your browser version and platform (PC or Mac).

Remember that web browsing software on smartphones (iPhone, Blackberry etc) and tablets (iPad, etc) works in a similar way so please make sure you learn how to cover your tracks if you access the internet/emails from your phone.

WARNING
Taking all of the actions on this page may not prevent an abuser from discovering your email and Internet activity. The safest way to find information on the Internet is to go to a safer computer. Some suggestions would be your local library, a friend’s house or your workplace. 

Other safety suggestions: Change your password often, do not pick obvious words or numbers for your password, and make sure to include a combination of letters and numbers for your password.