The Sheriff Speaks: Internet Security

Sheriff Kevin Sproul

Monday, August 31st, 2020

I am old enough to remember the time before the Internet. My first home computer was a Commodore 64 and my first online experience was the warbling sound of my dial-up modem connecting with America Online (AOL). Since that time, the use of the Internet has grown from an interesting diversion to a daily necessity – and that was before COVID-19. Since the pandemic began the use of the Internet for business, education, and recreation has increased exponentially. 

As it stands right now, everything is on the Internet. Everything. All of your personal information, your banking information, your rent or mortgage information, your medical information, is all on the web. Even if you haven’t provided the information, it is stored with the companies you do business with, on their computer servers, which are probably backed up to “the cloud,” which means that the information is being transmitted over the Internet. These companies are vulnerable to cyber attack. You and I have no control over this type of activity.

Then, there are the scams. Criminals will go to great effort to get you to reveal your personal information or help them to carry out their illegal activities. Often, innocent victims become unwilling participants to a criminal scheme, thinking they were doing something completely innocent. Other times, victims are led to believe they will profit somehow by their participation – not knowing that they are actually being scammed. They think they are taking advantage of an opportunity. With so many people losing their employment due to the pandemic, such “opportunities” may be appealing.

Another disturbing trend with so many using the Internet for video-conferencing is when hackers interrupt or “hijack” the conference and introduce pornography or other objectionable content. This can be especially harmful to small children who are using online learning due to COVID-19.

It may seem as though most of this is outside of our control but that doesn’t mean we are powerless. There are several important things we can do:

  1. Make sure that you are exercising as much caution as possible. Anything you do online that requires a password should be taken seriously. Too many of us use the same password for everything. We should ensure that our passwords have a good mix of capital and lower-case letters, along with numbers and special characters. We should also have different passwords for different accounts. It may be a hassle, but it’s worth the effort.
  2. Always ensure that parental controls are set on any computer used by children. Such controls can prevent pornography and other objectionable content from being accessed.
  3. Perhaps check into insurance. We insure our cars and homes against loss, why not our identities? Companies such as LifeLock offer plans with up to $1 million in coverage in the event that your identity is stolen.
  4. Consider using credit cards rather than debit cards. If your card information is stolen and used by the thief, credit cards normally offer much greater consumer protection than debit cards.
  5. Be vigilant about scams. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. 
  6. Finally, secure your phone. So much of our information is available on our phones, anyone who can access our phone can learn anything they want about us. Make sure your phone stays locked, preferably with facial recognition or fingerprint ID to unlock it.

Finally, if you have any questions or concerns, you can contact my office at 229-431-3259. The Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office is always here to serve the citizens of this community.