Discussion Topic #7: Online impersonation: prevent people from hijacking your account and pretending to be you

It is important to know that some people do go into other people’s accounts and try to cause trouble.

Consider this example. There were two boys at a Canadian high school who were really good friends. One day one started sending nasty e-mails to the other, and posting rude messages on his social networking page. The second student finally called the other and asked what was going on. His friend told him he hadn’t been on the computer all day. Someone had hacked into his account.

So, what can you do to avoid this happening to you?

Here are some tips:

Use strong passwords

Pick strong passwords and use different ones for different accounts. And don’t make them too easy.  Something that’s super easy for you to remember may also be easy for someone else to guess. Make sure to use a combination of letters, capitals and numbers and to choose something that only you would know and not something someone knows about you (like your birth date, pet name, etc).

Keep passwords to yourself.

Sharing your passwords with someone else can be a big privacy risk. A password is a secret, and it’s something only your parents should know.

Don’t use the “remember password” function

It’s possible for people to access your online accounts if you use a shared computer (like one that’s in a classroom, library or even your home) and forget to disable the “remember password” function. This means that the next person who goes to the same e-mail or social networking site could automatically log into your account. Automatic logins can be convenient but are not a good idea if you are sharing a computer with other people.

Log off every time

Make sure you sign out of social media and e-mail sites after you’re done using them.  Closing a browser window is not the same as logging off. Otherwise, someone could access your account simply by using the computer right after you and opening the browser window.

Look out for your friends and ask the same

If a friend is acting strange online (as in our example about the two high school boys), pick up the phone and find out what’s really going on.  If it turns out they’re just being silly, don’t worry about them thinking you’re too cautious.  They should appreciate you having their back.  And let them know you would, too.

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