There is no limit to the kind of information maintained by and accessible to Internet users. It is also a complex jurisdictional issue for police when it comes to investigating any online criminal activity.
If you are faced with a situation where you don't know what to do, good old-fashioned precautions work in the virtual world the same as they work in the real world.
Hardware and Software:
- Ensure you have up to date Internet security software installed.
- Secure your network with a strong password enabling encryption to prevent unauthorized access to your wireless computer. For more information on this, check the manual that came with your wireless router or contact your internet service provider.
- Filtering Software: Specially designed filtering programs can help keep children from accessing inappropriate online sites and materials.
- Just as a hacker can gain control of your computer, they can also take over your webcam. Using illegal web camera programs, hijacking has become increasingly common among users of social/messaging sites. Hackers use these programs to control the webcam, even taking photos and sometimes using it to spy on everything you do.
- Unplug the camera or cover the lens when not in use.
- Don't assume it's turned off when the web cam light is off. Hackers sometimes use special web camera programs to control the light as well. Many newer model webcams come with a privacy shield that slides across the lens or something as simple as a taped piece of paper could do the trick.
- Think before you pose or post: learn about the potential consequences of sexting and the long lasting impact of internet content. Never send a file or photo over the Internet that you may regret later. Once sent, it is irretrievable and even if deleted, it can circulate for many years through saved files, screenshots or downloads.
- Check what privacy settings you have on your online profiles and limit personal information you make available to other users.
- Do not post or tell anyone online your date of birth, address, phone number or any other personal information.
- Sometimes people aren't who they say they are online. It is easy to create fake profiles or become someone else, pretend to be a different age or gender, online. See also about Romance Scams and the Online Exploitation of Children Unit.
- If someone sends you an email form with personal information about themselves on it and suggest you fill one out just like it, be alerted and don't do it.
- If you're meeting someone that you've only ever talked to online, make sure you meet them during daylight hours, in a well-lit, public place, like a coffee shop or mall and make sure that someone you trust knows when/where you'll be. Trust your instincts and if you feel unsafe at any time while meeting this person, leave immediately.
- Never accept an email attachment from a stranger. It may contain a program that will allow the sender to control or damage your computer.
- Avoid opening unsolicited email. The message may contain a virus that can damage your computer.
- Do not buy products from or reply to a company that spams - it only encourages them to continue spamming.
- Avoid being a victim of a scam: Don't accept money by wire transfers or cheques when buying/selling goods online. See also safety info on online classified sites like Kijiji or Craigslist.
- Report spam to your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
- Do not reply to or forwarded "chain-letter" emails.
- Do not reply to any spam, this includes not clicking on any "unsubscribe" links. All you are doing is confirming to the spammer the existence of an active email account.
If you or someone you know is being bullied online, it's important to tell someone. If you are being threatened, you should contact the police by calling 613-230-6211 or if at any time you feel that you're in immediate life-threatening danger, call 911.