Tips for Staying Safe Online

Man dressed as a thief with a laptop

It seems everywhere you look there is a new story about how criminals are using technology to steal your money or identity. Here are some tips to help guard yourself from the most common methods of attack.

Keep Your Hardware and Software Updated

Let’s face it, updates are a pain. Whether it’s Windows bullying you into stopping work for a restart or your iPhone begging for your iCloud credentials, updates always seem to initiate at the worst times. However, keeping up with updates is a crucial step in staying safe. Often, those updates contain code that fixes vulnerabilities that bad actors are already exploiting in addition to any new features.

Privacy Settings

Each platform (Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, etc.) has its own series of tasks that can increase your privacy, and therefore security, on that device. Please note that increasing privacy may break some functionality. For example, if you turn off location access, you will be unable to use the GPS to get guided driving directions.

Wi-Fi Networks

Wi-Fi undoubtedly makes staying connected easy and convenient. Unfortunately, it is another avenue that can be used for attack. Here are some suggestions for staying safe when connecting to Wi-Fi networks.

  • Pick the right network. People with bad intentions have been known to create networks with names similar to those that people expect to connect to in an attempt to make you vulnerable. For instance, you could be in the waiting room at a medical office and see an open network called “Dr. Jones guest wi-fi” that seems legit. After all, you are here to see Dr. Jones. But maybe the official guest network is “Jones Medical Associates guest wi-fi”, which is also on the network list, but not the first one you saw. Connecting to the wrong network can give a thief full access to your device. When in doubt, double-check the network name.
  • If possible, only connect to networks with a password. While this does not guarantee security, it does limit who can connect.
  • Some devices have a feature that will allow you to auto-join open networks. Unless you have entered a password and saved a network, it is not a good idea to allow it to connect automatically. See this article for more information about how to disable auto-connection on different devices.
  • If you are on a public network, do not conduct any personal or financial business without using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN encrypts all of your device’s traffic, not just internet browsing. Your workplace may already offer a VPN. There are free VPNs out there, but beware – many are worth what you pay for them. You can find many review sites online claiming they know the best VPNs to use, but two industry leaders for general use are ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

Multi-Factor Authentication

Have you ever been doing business online and the site sent a code to your phone or email to confirm your identity? That is multi-factor authentication. The first factor is your password. Some sites just want to make sure you are human, so they have you check a box or identify which pictures have an object in them. Other sites need to be sure the correct person is logging in to the account and use a more secure second factor. Common second factors include a code sent to a phone or email account, a fingerprint on the phone’s sensor, or a third-party program like Google Authenticator.

If you use a service that offers multi-factor authentication, turning it on will go a long way to securing your accounts. Privacy breaches can reveal your usernames and passwords, but it is exponentially harder, if not impossible, for identity thieves to fake the second factor. Yes, it is inconvenient to add a step to every single login, but it isn’t nearly as inconvenient as having your identity stolen or your bank account emptied.

Internet Browser Tips

My number one tip for browser security (besides keeping it updated) is to use the Duck Duck Go search engine instead of Google, Bing, or other searches. Duck Duck Go doesn’t gather your info like the other players. They provide a private, encrypted search and block trackers. Search is available on their website or via browser extension. You can even download Duck Duck Go as an app on your phone. Brave is a browser alternative to Firefox and Chrome that promises secure and fast browsing.

If you use Chrome or Mozilla Firefox to browse the web, you can add extensions to your browser. Extensions are like little apps that add functions and tools. Duck Duck Go has an extension for Firefox, but not for Chrome. Here are some extensions, most available for both Chrome and Firefox, that can help keep you safe on the web.

  • Privacy Badger blocks trackers, even if they are “invisible.”
  • HTTPS Everywhere encrypts your web traffic, making it tougher for bad actors to see it.
  • uBlock Origin blocks ads and other content that slows down your browsing.
  • AdBlock Plus is another well-reviewed ad blocking extension.
  • Multi-Account Containers (Firefox only) allows the user to separate traffic into containers, preventing cross-tracking. Not only is this useful to keep Facebook from seeing what you are shopping for on Amazon, but it allows a user to use different containers to login to different accounts on the same service. For instance, one could have three different Gmail accounts open in the same browser at the same time.

Other Browser Strategies

One safety strategy is to use one (secure) browser for banking, internet, and other work, while using a separate browser for shopping and visiting other “snoopy” sites. This keeps the services from “seeing” each other. No matter which browser(s) you use, you should clear your cookies regularly.

Got Questions?

If so, let us know in the chat or contact us at the library: 518-477-7476 or eglibraryinfo@eglibrary.org.

Format Painter Saves the Day

Have you ever gotten a paragraph, table, spreadsheet cell, etc. formatted just the way you want it, only to find yourself struggling to create the same format in another place? Or, have you ever decided you wanted to change the format of all of the document headings and realized it would take forever? Enter Format Painter to make your life easier.

The folks at Tech-Talk have provided lots of articles and videos to share all kinds of formatting tips and tricks for documents, spreadsheets, slide shows, and more! To learn about how format painter (in both Microsoft and Google applications) can help make formatting a breeze, check out this page.

Ancestry Library Edition @ Home

Several libraries in the Upper Hudson Library System subscribe to Ancestry Library Edition for their patrons. Ordinarily, libraries are only able to purchase subscriptions for on-site use. During the pandemic, however, ProQuest has made remote access available at no additional cost to libraries. Remote access is currently set to expire on March 1st, 2021, but may be extended if the majority of libraries are still working under reduced services due to the pandemic.

If you are an East Greenbush/Schodack resident, you can access Ancestry remotely from our login page using your library account number (barcode). If you are not a resident, this link won’t work for you. Check with the public library where you reside to see if they have set up similar access on their website.

If your library doesn’t have access, you can connect to the library’s Wi-Fi and go to https://ancestrylibrary.com. Portions of Ancestry content are available from home to all New York State residents with a free Ancestry.com New York account.

New to Ancestry? Check out our help materials:

Technology Help Live or On-Demand

Tech-Talk is a resource the library provides to its staff and resident patrons, and it is available in three formats. The free weekly newsletter provides tips in text and video formats. Those articles, as well as free webinars, quick reference guides, and more are archived on the website and the app.

The technology-focused e-newsletter is perfect for professional development for non-techies.  It introduces fresh ideas and ways to use technology to work more productively and communicate effectively.  With a focus on productivity software from Microsoft Office and interpersonal communications, Tech-Talk doesn’t just tell people how to do things, it tells them why and shows them new ways to make technology work for them.

Tech-Talk arms you with the missing technology (and communications) skills you need to get good grades, better jobs, and higher pay. It is digital learning with easy-to-read articles, videos, and other fun stuff with the tips and tricks you need to be competitive in today’s hi-tech world. Some of the topics covered in Tech-Talk include:

The Website and App

The Tech Talk website can be accessed in a browser or using a mobile app (Apple and Android). To get the app, go to https://www.tech-talk.com/get-app.

If prompted, enter eglibrary as both the user name and the password. This password can be saved.

Articles

To search or browse for topic, click on “Articles & Videos” in the top menu. You can then search by keyword or topic, enter a problem to solve, or ask a new question if you haven’t found an article or webinar to meet your need. You can scroll down to browse articles in date order (newest first).

Learning Activities

In addition to articles, Tech Talk has tool kits, scavenger hunts for training, one-sheet reference guides, targeted problem-solving, webinars, CE certificates, and so much more. To see an index of all of them, click “Learning Activities” in the menu. Alternatively, hover over it and see a categorized sub-menu.

Search

The search page has the same search options we saw on the articles page, and it also includes titles of the latest 10 articles in each of 21 different categories for quick browsing.

The Newsletter

You can opt-in to the e-newsletter to receive a short weekly email with a productivity tip and a communication tip. Videos and text are both provided. To sign up for the newsletter, fill in this short form. If prompted, the username and password are both eglibrary.

Got Questions?

Need help finding or using the database? Installing the app? Subscribing to the newsletter? Ask us in the comments, call the library at 518-477-7476, or email us at eglibraryinfo@eglibrary.org.

Pay Library Fines Online

A new feature has been added to the Upper Hudson Library System’s online catalog. Patrons now have the ability to pay for their library fines online with a credit card or PayPal account.

To begin, head over to the UHLS Online Catalog, Encore. There is also a link for “My Account” on the East Greenbush Community Library’s website under the Explore heading.

Once you have logged in with your library card number and PIN, click on the Fines/Fees link on the left. If you have fines, you will see the fine total in parenthesis next to Fines/Fees.

To continue, click on Fines/Fees. Please note that you need to have a minimum balance of $1.01 to pay your fines online.

Here you will see a display listing the details about each fine. Click on the gray Pay Online button to continue.


You can select which fines you would like to pay. By default, all fines are currently selected. Uncheck any fines you would like to pay later. Once you have selected the fines you would like to pay online, click continue. Clicking cancel will take you back to the previous screen.

From here you can enter your payment information. In the top right corner, there is an order summary that displays your the total you will be paying today. There are two ways to pay. If you click Pay with PayPal, you can login with your PayPal account and follow the steps from there. The second option is to enter your credit card information and billing address and click the Pay Now button. Once your payment has processed, you will get a confirmation message that your payment has gone through.

If you have any questions, please contact the library. Have you tried out the new pay online feature? Let us know in the comments!