Be careful of public hot spots. Turn off your wireless router when not in use. And don't forget to change your router's pre-set password and "NETGEAR" identifier.
Officials say these tips and others are part of "Data Privacy Day," created to remind people about how to keep their personal data private in an increasingly-networked world. Facebook also plans to send a message to users reminding them to review privacy settings on the site.
For her part, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says many computer users just don't know how vulnerable their information is and what they need to do to protect it.She became concerned when Google announced it had been collecting data over wireless networks as part of Google View, which photographs homes, buildings, streets and other landmarks.
Madigan is now investigating Google's collection of data, which included user emails, passwords and web surfing activity.
"Consumers should take this opportunity to follow the necessary steps to ensure protection of their personal information online," she said.
OnGuard Online, a consortium of federal government agencies, suggests these steps to secure your network and web browsing activity.
1. Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a firewall. Keep them up to date.
2. Change the identifier on your router from the default. When you first turned on the router, it probably called itself "NETGEAR" or whatever the model hardware was. Change it to something unique that doesn't identify you. (Not your address.)
3. Change your router's pre-set password. Just like all other passwords "123456" and "password" probably aren't the best settings to use.
4. Turn off your wireless network when you know you're not using it.
5. Don't assume public "hot spots" are secure. Be careful about doing banking or using your credit card on a public wireless network. You should assume people can see anything you send over a public wireless network.
How to Keep Your Personal Data Better Protected