Cyber tips: Protecting your online identity

Now more than ever, people rely on the Internet to work, study, stay connected with family and friends, pay bills or simply unwind. For criminals, the Internet provides an endless stream of potential targets to be victimized.

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, commonly known as CID, continually receives reports ranging from identity theft to Internet scams that are perpetrated by cyber criminals operating throughout the world.

Law enforcement’s ability to identify these perpetrators is difficult and limited, so individuals must stay on the alert and be personally responsible for their online presence to protect both themselves and their loved ones.

The following information may help military community members protect themselves online and significantly reduce the chance of becoming victims of cyber crime.

Protect yourself online

— Know the terms on social networking websites. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking sites’ privacy settings default to everyone. This means anyone can view your profile, not just people you know. Users can and should change this by accessing the Privacy Settings/Profile Information usually found under the respective Account tab.

— Sample social networking safely. Never disclose private information when using social networking websites. Be selective about who you invite or accept invitations from as cyber criminals use false profiles to gain access to personal and private information, such as birth dates, marital status and personal photographs. Posts containing personal identifying information, including photos containing metadata, can be used against you and your family.

— Click with caution. Always use caution when clicking on links in an email or a social networking post, even from someone you know. Reports of personal social networking accounts being hacked and taken over by criminals have increased in recent years. Clicking on a link that appears to be benign in nature may in fact contain embedded malware that can compromise your computer. Once compromised, the data on your computer can be exploited and even your computer can be remotely operated as a surrogate in online attacks against others.

— Hide your profile from search engines. This can be accomplished by going to the Account/Privacy Settings/Search and unchecking the “Public Search Results” box. This will remove your public preview from Google, Bing and Yahoo search returns.

— Prevent people from “tagging” you in photos and videos. To do this, go to the Account/Privacy Settings/Profile Information/Photos and Videos of Me and deselect the “everyone” default.

— Keep your personal information safe. Don’t provide personal or financial information, user names or passwords in response to an email because legitimate companies generally don’t seek such information in this manner.

— Install/update your anti-virus/firewall software. Antivirus and firewall software is a must for anyone to safely navigate online. Always keep your security software up to date in order to provide the most complete protection from malicious programs as thousands of new viruses are detected every year. Also, ensure your antivirus software program updates automatically and scans your computer on a recurring schedule.

Current Department of Defense employees (excluding contractors, retirees and family members) with an active Army Knowledge Online account can download antivirus software for free by logging in to the U.S. Army Computer Emergency Response Team website ( and selecting the Antivirus link.

Smartphones, mobile devices

— Know your Apps. When signing up with an app store or downloading an individual app, you may be asked for permission to let it access information on your device. Some apps may be able to access phone and email contacts, call logs, Internet data, calendar data, data about the device’s location, the device’s unique ID, and information about how the app is used. If you’re providing information when you’re using the device, someone may be collecting it.

— Password protect all devices. The time to safeguard the information on a portable electronic device is not after it has been lost or stolen. Ensure all portable electronic devices are properly password protected, especially any device with personal communications account information (email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.).

— “Brick” a stolen device. In recent years, roughly 40 percent of all robberies involve smart phones and/or tablet computers, thus endangering the security of the personal information on the stolen devices. If a smart phone is lost or stolen, the owner can contact the carrier and ask to have that device remotely disabled. These “bricked” phones are of little or no use to thieves because they can’t be reactivated after being sold on the black market.


For more information on the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command,  visit