How to Stay Safe Online

Whether you're shopping, banking, making travel arrangements or keeping in touch with friends and family, it's more and more likely you're doing it online. And whether you know it or not, there's always the chance someone is watching you.

Like banks and online retailers, Defense Finance and Accounting Services takes online security very seriously. The pay and identity information within the Web-based myPay pay management site is protected day and night by the best cybersecurity available.

But that's not good enough!

According to DFAS computer security experts, their efforts to keep your information safe can be useless if you don't take measures to keep your important files, usernames, passwords and online activity private. Thieves are using methods to catch you off guard, especially when you feel safe and anonymous.

Perhaps you've used the free WiFi at the local coffee house or grocery store. You find a network with the store's name and jump on. What you may have just done is log on to a counterfeit network owned by thieves. Every action you take, including your username, password and maybe even your credit card or bank account numbers is recorded. You may find later that your accounts have been emptied or your credit card used to purchase expensive items online. And while it may be easy, even understandable to blame the bank or store's security for your pain, the truth is that you were the one responsible.

And maybe you don't have a laptop, or don't have it with you when the need arises to do some online business. So you stop by a local library to make quick use of their Internet connections. As you move briskly through your leave and earnings statement information available on myPay, a program loaded onto that computer by a previous user records every keystroke and sends it to the thief sitting comfortably in his or her apartment or home miles away.

There's always more low-tech approaches as well. These can be as simple as watching "over the shoulder" as you work. Some thieves may attempt to watch you enter usernames and passwords; others attempt to catch valuable tidbits from your screen.

So, what can you do to use the ever-increasing number of online tools and stay safe?

While online safety requires continual research to know how criminals might be collecting their "loot," there are some basic precautions you can take.

  • Don't use public computers (such as libraries, Internet kiosks, etc.) to access your private and financial information. Wait until you can get onto a more secure computer and network before logging in.
  • If you absolutely need to use a public WiFi network, make sure you know which one belongs to the business at which you are located (and even that's not 100 percent safe). If you can, position yourself where others cannot see you type or read your screen.
  • Use your own computer and network, making sure that your operating system, antivirus and firewall protection are updated. Use security settings suitable for your safety.
  • Department of Defense military and civilian employees have an even easier way to stay safe on myPay. Using your work computer, use myPay's common access card, or CAC, login feature to avoid the need to enter usernames and passwords at all. Not only is it faster, but your connection will use a DoD network that will encrypt information to and from your computer.

Young, old, student, professional, parent, child, CEO and retiree, the need to get online is everywhere. The threats are real, and online systems are trying to remain ahead of them. But the one thing these systems can't control, and the one thing thieves are looking for, is you. Play it smart; protect yourself.

*This article was provided by Defense Finance and Accounting Service.


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