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Common Sense Internet Safety


Technology has been advancing at breakneck speed, especially in the last twenty years. And that especially goes for the Internet. Because of the Internet any small business has the same chance of marketing to the same people as the mega brick and mortar stores. There are so many ways to market your products, purchase products, communicate with business associates and family, and the list goes on and on. It can seem like a full time job just trying to keep up with technology, let alone trying to protect your business and your family. And, as quickly as technology advances for the rest of us, it advances just as quickly for the “bad guys” as well. Today we will be looking at a few Internet-based technologies, and some common sense ways to keep you and your family safe while getting the most out of all these technologies.

Online Shopping

Often referred to as an e-commerce site, which is a web site that has a shopping cart and can be known as a online store. An Internet e-commerce site is a wonderful time-saving technology that allows both you and your customers to not only save a lot of money by shopping around, but also creates an even playing field for the Mom and Pops to be on Equal footing with the Big Name Box Stores.

However, the Big Box Stores already have an advantage that a Mom and Pop do not have outside of their circle of influence.  And that is “brand recognition” and more importantly, an already established trust that the small business or “Mom and Pop” has to overcome, because the modern online shopper is sophisticated and you will lose a sale (aka shopping cart abandonment) if you haven’t built that trust and relationship with your customer, you are not going to get the sale.

Here is a short list of items every current online store owner or prospective online store owner should plan into the development of their store, and things that those are looking to buy should look for when purchasing from an online business:

  1. Investigate the Domain Name of the store you are visiting. Make sure that the name on the Domain Name Record (which is public) matches the name of the business you are doing business with. A “Warning Flag” is the use of “Privacy Protection, in other words a Proxy is being used to HIDE the real owner of the domain name. Your question should be what are they trying to hide?  While there are legitimate reasons to use Privacy Protection (Proxy) to hide the owners contact information for private web sites, for a business this should never be used, unless there is a unique reason.
  2. Look for third party accreditations on the site, like but not limited to the Better Business Bureau, McAfee SiteAdvisor, Seals from Trust Guard are just a few. Make sure to click on the seals to help verify the company you are really doing business with. has a point and verify seal from COMODO a leader in the internet security business, if you go to any page on the web site and mouse over the VISA, MasterCard, Discover Card logos you will see a seal will appear with verification. So make sure your site has these linkable seals on YOUR site. And as a visitor look for these seals.
  3. Make sure that when you check out that the page that is actually collecting your personal information like credit and debit card information is a secure page. There are some simple ways to do this.
    a) Look in your web browser’s address window for the https:// if the web address doesn’t start with that then you are NOT on a secure page. Also make sure that the little “lock” is showing at the bottom of your browser window. The only way to check to make sure that the page you are on is to make right click on the page where there isn’t any graphics. And using IE7 click on Properties and you will see something like this “TLS 1.0, AES with 128 bit encryption (High); RSA with 1024 bit exchange” the 128 bit encryption is proof you are on a secure page. If using Firefox you will right click in a blank area (without graphics) and choose “View Page Info” and then click on the Security icon and then click on the View Certificate button.
    b) Make sure that you’re not rerouted to another unknown web site, unless you are expecting to be rerouted like if paying using a service like 2CheckOut or PayPal where they process your order on behalf of the store owner on their own web sites.
  4. Other things to look for, make sure the ecommerce site has a phone number to call should you have a problem and a real address, something other than an email address or email form on their web site.
  5. Always check the stores return policy and/or Privacy Policy pages.

If you follow these common sense tips while shopping online, whether it be from a Big Box store, or or a well run Mom and Pop store, your experience will be safe and enjoyable. And if you own an online ecommerce store, make sure your store measures up.

Finally, when purchasing online, be careful when ordering items from far eastern vendors, such as China, Thailand, and Singapore. These areas are rampant with piracy and knockoffs, so you may not receive what you expected. That iPhone you just bought may not be an iPhone.


Email is a wonderful tool that I am sure than many of us could not live without. It increases efficiencies, and allows us to communicate almost immediately with anyone all across the globe. However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when using email. The most important consideration is to never include information such as a password or account number in an email. Email always communicates in plain text. The easiest thing to keep in mind is that if you would not be comfortable sharing the information with third parties, then it probably should not be in an email. Also, if you do not use the person, or if it has a questionable attachment type, delete the email and do not open it.

If you own a business or if you are trying to develop a “personal brand,” look into getting yourself your own domain name with your name or business name. Instead of promoting Hotmail’s email or Yahoo’s email or Gmail’s email service start promoting your own brand with your own domain. Remember domain names can be used for email as well as using to host your own web site. You can get your own domain name today at

Social Networking Sites

This is the latest hot trend. No longer simply the foray of crazy college kids, social networking sites have now become mainstream for everything from marketing campaigns to politics. This can be a very cost effective way to communicate with customers and friends. But, if your family uses these sites for personal items, stress to your children to be very careful with the information they put on these sites. Never post home address and contact phone numbers, and not that posting pictures is a bad thing, in some cases it can be a good thing, but know what your kids are doing before allowing them to post personal photos. In this day and age, bad people often use these kinds of sites to troll for victims.

Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and a few others can be a good thing if used in a positive way to promote you and your service or product. But remember, don’t be too pushy. Social networks are a causal place let your friends and customers get to know you. Once they know you they are more likely to want to do business with you.

Instant Messaging

This is a fast and very efficient way to communicate with customers, vendors, and friends and family. It allows for instant communication and sharing of documents in real time. This can be a real time saver, and is often more efficient than using email, as you can get instant feedback during your communications. However, be careful when your children use this method to communicate with their friends. Make sure you know who they are chatting with, as people are not always who they claim to be.

We certainly don’t want to scare you away from using technology, but rather, to get you to use common sense when using the tools that are available to your business and family.

Wishing you all the best in your business endeavors.

Roy Randolph
Head Hostmaster

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