How to stay safe on the internet

Published 11:30 am Thursday, March 12, 2015

A theme for the month of March is internet safety awareness. I have written about this in the past so I would like to enhance some of those past articles with information about traveling with your internet. This is something most people obviously forget about.

Every week, there are over 1,200 laptops lost just in airports. Only 63 percent of stolen laptops are recovered. A cell phone is lost or stolen about every 3.5 seconds. That number seems almost impossible but 5.1 billion people worldwide own a cell phone. Compare that to the fact that only 4.2 billion people own a toothbrush.

When you prepare to go out or travel, back up devices before leaving. Use strong passwords, anti-malware and disable file sharing. Use encryption to protect sensitive information. Store the serial numbers for all devices in a safe place.

In your vehicle, lock your doors when there are valuables present, even if you are nearby or away “just for a minute,” like at a gas station. If you have to leave valuables unattended, hide them in the trunk at a different location before you arrive. Always check around your vehicle for forgotten articles.

When you are out and about, keep mobile devices in deep pockets, or pockets that can be zipped or buttoned, so they don’t fall out or stolen by a pickpocket. Don’t lay devices on counters, tables or seats where it may take a thief only a few seconds to grab it and run. As soon as you are done with the device, put it away so you don’t lose it. When walking on the sidewalk or in a busy public area, prevent device snatching by using earphones and keeping your device out of sight, or waiting to talk until indoors.

When catching your flight, before exiting a cab, always check the seat and floor. On shuttles, keep your laptop bag on the seat with you, not leaving them on the ground or leave them in a travel cart. Be vigilant at check-in and baggage claim areas. At security checkpoints keep devices to be scanned with you until you walk through. If napping, choose a safe place to put your devices so someone walking by can’t take them. Stop the “shoulder surfers,” those who look over your shoulder when logging in or using the device, especially if working on sensitive material.

Social media sites can be a huge target for thieves and burglars. You should not make your profile or pages public. Realize that what you post can be seen by malicious people who may target you. Don’t publish business travel or vacation plans before traveling. Share your photos and stories when you return home.

The internet and social media is the new “playground” for all types of predators. Don’t make it easy for them. Protect your information and devices. Be cautious and alert when using any device in public. Record serial numbers and report any theft immediately.


Rob Herbstreith is the community service trooper for the Michigan State Police Niles post. Any questions or comments can be directed to or 269-683-4411.