A Brief Glimpse at Keeping Yourself Secure

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Safety is defined as the “condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, or loss” (1). Even in our world where everything is connected, safety is a still prime concern for almost everyone, whether you’re driving on the way to work, walking through a park, or browsing the internet. I’m here to remind you of some basic personal safety tips, including some things you may not be aware of.

While the media’s ubiquitous presence and penchant for over sensationalizing may make you think that we live in violent times and are less safe than ever, statistics actually show that crime is on the decline. This is indeed good news, but you shouldn’t neglect the basic steps to keep yourself, your loved ones, and your belongings safe.
Violent crime in the United States has gone down from over 1.4 million cases in 2007 to just over 1.2 million in 2011, a rate of decline of 15.4 percent (2). Property crimes, including larceny, theft, and burglary, have fallen from under 9.9 million in 2007 to  just over 9 million in 2011, or a drop of  8.3 percent (3). But don’t drop your guard. The first thing you should realize is that awareness of your surroundings and conscious preparation will go a long way in keeping you safe.
To prevent burglary or theft, simply lock your doors and windows. Many thefts are crimes of opportunity, and you can prevent them by keeping your doors and windows locked. Keeping your car locked and windows closed (or, at the most, cracked open) can help prevent auto thefts.
Another tip for vehicles is to keep indicators of high-value items out of sight. An iPod dock, GPS mount, or even an aftermarket radio header can prompt someone to break into your vehicle and search it. Taking a few extra seconds to secure your valuables, either by placing them in the trunk or keeping them out of sight by covering them or placing them in the glove box, will decrease the likelihood that you will be targeted.
If you are going out for a walk or run, let someone know where you are going; if you can, have someone go with you. Exercising with a partner will make you less of a target, as potential thieves or attackers are less likely to confront a group than an individual. If you are going out alone make sure you stick to well-lit areas with lots of people around; criminals neither want to be seen nor will they operate where someone can report their activity. Avoid dimly lit streets, alleys, or parks after dark. Remember that carrying any type of weapon can be dangerous or illegal, so check your state’s laws regarding this before you do. If you carry pepper spray, be sure you know how to properly use it and that you have it easily accessible; a criminal won’t wait for you to find your spray before he steals your wallet or purse.
Online safety is also a big concern, even though there is no danger of physical harm people can easily steal personal information. Once someone has your personal information they can re-route your mail, spend your money, or even steal your identity. With a little bit of diligence, you can minimize your risk. Don’t put personal information on public computers as they can store your passwords, and if the computer has a virus or other malicious software (malware), then your information can be stolen by those programs. To avoid malware don’t click on any pop-ups, even if they look like they are from your computer. Many malware programs trick you into clicking on them by saying your system is infected, but when you click it actually downloads the malware.
Keep your passwords to yourself—don’t share them or write them down. Try to have at least one capitol letter and one number in your passwords. The less coherent the password, the harder it is to crack. “Password7” is far less secure than “Iharcp989” (which is an acronym for “I have a really confusing password 1989”). That first password would take a program less than a day to crack, while the second would take approximately three and a half years (4)(5). Quite simply, the more common your password is, the easier it is to crack. Using an acronym or gibberish that you can remember makes your password that much more secure.
Credit and debit card numbers are also big targets online. The obvious step in protecting your card number is to make sure you only ever enter it into a reliable website. One thing that many people don’t know is that it is much safer to use a credit card online than a debit card. If someone steals your information or makes phony charges on a credit card, then you can refute the charges and go after the thief. If you use your debit card and the same thing happens, your money is already gone because a debit card comes straight from your personal account.
So at the end of the day, being vigilant and taking that one extra step can protect yourself, your loved ones, and your valuables. You don’t have to be paranoid about everything that can happen, but if you think about your actions, you will be one step ahead. Reducing the opportunity for crime helps crime rates to continue to fall. You will also live more comfortably knowing you’ve reduced your chances of being affected by crime.
(1) (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/safety)
(2) (http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/violent-crime/violent-crime)
(3) (http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/property-crime/property-crime)
(4) (http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2012/05/25/how-long-would-it-take-to-crack-your-password/)
(5) (http://www.passfault.com/passwords.html)
This article is provided by City Security.