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Life Online: It's a Jungle Out There


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 bank and online retailers, Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) has taken 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 cyber security 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 protect your important files, user names, 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 onto a counterfeit network owned by the thieves. Every action you take, including your user name, password and maybe even your credit card or bank account numbers are 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 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 (LES) information available on myPay, a program loaded onto that computer by a previous user is recording every keystroke and sending it to the thief sitting comfortably in their 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 may attempt to watch you enter user names and passwords, others attempt to catch valuable tidbits from your screen.

So, what can you do to use the ever-increasing numbers 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 you are located at (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 and using security settings suitable for your safety.
  • DoD military and civilian employees have an even easier way to stay safe on myPay. Using your work computer, use myPay's CAC login feature to avoid the need to enter user names and passwords at all. Not only is it faster, but your connection will be using a DoD network that will encrypt information from and to 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 (DFAS). 


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