PLEASE BE AWARE: Because devices, operating systems, platforms, and apps change frequently, the information in even the most recent resources listed below may be out of date.
NOTE: In-person computer training at the South Plainfield library is not currently available, but
Plainfield Public Library NEW! offers a variety of free computer training courses, including IC3 (Internet and Computing Core Competency) certification, open to anyone with card from their NJ home library. See the Computer Training page for details and registration info.
For online computer training, see Universal Class, and/or GCF LearnFree Online Tutorials for free online computer training, as well as links under specific topics below, such as Getting Started with Computers, Getting Connected to the Internet, Internet Basics, etc.
Click here to find out about recycling Consumer Electronics in South Plainfield (search the page for the word 'computer', 'phone', or whatever electronic item you want to recycle). Before you get rid of your old PC, cell phone, or mobile device, see Disposal of Electronic Devices and E-Cycling links, below.
GCF LearnFree Online Tutorials VIDEO - Self-paced tech tutorials covering computer basics, Internet basics, e-mail skills, and social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), as well as Smartphones & Tablets, Microsoft Office, versions XP through 2016 (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access) and Windows, versions 98, XP, 7, 8, & 10, and Mac OS. (Goodwill Community Foundation)
Clean Your Computer VIDEO - Dust isn't just unattractive - it can potentially damage or even destroy parts of your computer. Cleaning your computer regularly will help you keep it working properly and avoid expensive repairs. This page shows you how. (Goodwill Community Foundation)
Computer Dictionary - Over 6,000 computer definitions and terms; you can search by keyword or browse alphabetically (Computer Hope). What Is? is another dictionary of computer-related terms; search by keyword, or browse alphabetically or by broad subject (TechTarget, an online technology media company). See also Security Glossary, and Texting and Chat Abbreviations, below.
Computer Rage VIDEO - If computer-related aggravations have you tearing your hair out, get some vicarious & hilarious relief from these comic videos. (Dr. Kent Norman, retired Psychology Professor at University of Maryland; videos hosted on YouTube.)
Consumer Reports: Computer Buying Guide - Annual guide to choosing a laptop or desktop computer, Windows or Macintosh, plus other information to help you buy and use your computer, and the latest electronics & computer news & reviews (full access only available with subscription, but you can access Consumer Reports Online via EBSCO Masterfile). Before you get rid of your old PC, cell phone, or mobile device, see Disposal of Electronic Devices and E-Cycling links, below.
DownRightNow - Have you ever had a problem connecting to Facebook, Google, YouTube, or other popular websites, and wondered if the trouble originated from the website itself, from your ISP, or from your own equipment? DownRightNow monitors the status of your favorite web services to tell you when there's service trouble. You can also file a report on the site to let others know when you've encountered a bug or outage. To check the status of ANY website (not just the popular ones), see Website Down or Not?
E-Cycling - Basic information about reducing & recycling electronics, information about state e-cycling requirements, organizations & major retailers / manufacturers with donation & recycling programs, and more (U.S. EPA). See our Where to donate: Electronics links if you want to donate your old computer equipment or cell phone. For a list of area stores that accept items such as printers, laptops, monitors, CPUs and televisions for recycling, see Middlesex County Electronics Recycling UPDATED LINK! (Middlesex County Improvement Authority). See also E-Cycle New Jersey (NJ Department of Environmental Protection). For advice on how to remove personal data from your old PC, cell phone, or mobile device before you donate, recycle or trash it, see Disposal of Electronic Devices links, below. Recycle It Right outlines environmentally-friendly ways to get rid of electronic equipment that you no longer use (Electronics TakeBack Coalition). The South Plainfield Public Library accepts empty ink & toner cartridges from computer printers or copiers for recycling — your donations help the library! Click here for info on the South Plainfield Electronics Recycling Program (search the page for the word 'computer', 'phone', or whatever electronic item you want to recycle). See our recycling webfinder for additional resources.
FCC Consumer Help Center - Visit this website to learn about consumer issues, file a complaint or check your complaint status. Includes consumer information about TV, phone, internet, radio, access for people with disabilities, and emergency communications. See also FCC Consumer Guides. (Federal Communications Commission)
Lifehacker Tech Privacy and Security UPDATED LINKS! VIDEO - Tips to help you 'troubleshoot your computer problems, soup up your wifi, and generally make all of your devices work better.' Includes short videos on topics such as What to Do Immediately After You Click a Phishing Link (Lifehacker, part of G/O Media Inc.)
Lifewire - Expert tech advice that can help you fix tech gadgets that aren't working properly, learn how to perform specific tasks, and find the best products. (Part of Dotdash.com)
Older versions of computer programs - See Old Version, below.
Readability - The Readability app is no longer available. Firefox Reader View provides similar features in the Firefox Web Browser without the use of a separate app, though not all web pages are available in Reader View. Another useful tool for those with reading difficulties is the free WordTalk Windows plugin for Microsoft Word. WordTalk will speak the text of a document and highlight it as it goes. Works with Microsoft Windows (all versions supported) and Microsoft Word 2007 and later (Hosted by CALL Scotland, Communication and Assistive Technology for People with Disabilities, University of Edinburgh; conceived and developed by Rod Macaulay).
Reduce Screen Time - See Parenting & Family: Reduce Screen Time and related links.
TechSoup - 'A comprehensive source of technology information just for non-profit organizations,' but some information will be useful for individuals and small businesses as well.
Getting Started with Computers & Windows
If you are an ABSOLUTE BEGINNER, find a friend, relative, or librarian to help you get started with these sites:
Good Typing [FREE REGISTRATION REQUIRED.] INTERACTIVE - Using a computer keyboard can really slow you down if you don't know how to type. This online tutorial offers step-by-step lessons for beginners. Other good typing tutorial sites include Peter's Online Typing Course INTERACTIVE, and Typing.com INTERACTIVE.
Mouse: New User Tutorial UPDATED LINK! INTERACTIVE - If you've never used a computer before and have no idea how to use a mouse, these lessons are for you! Covers pointing, clicking, scrolling, and a few other basic skills (Goodwill Community Foundation).
Once you've mastered your mouse & keyboard, it's time to move on to:
Computer Basics VIDEO INTERACTIVE - This tutorial will help you understand how computers work and how to use them. Covers setting up a computer, the difference between hardware and software, different types of computers, operating systems, applications, the cloud, and much more. Also offers tutorials on other basic skills and many other tech topics. (Goodwill Community Foundation)
Computer Literacy 101 INTERACTIVE - 'Consider this set of lessons ''Beginning Driver's Ed'' for the computer.' Suitable for those who have never used Windows before. Use the righthand menu to choose a topic. See also Working with Windows, below. (By Jan Smith)
Check these sites to learn more about using Microsoft Windows® and other operating systems:
64-bit vs. 32-bit Operating Systems - 'You're probably aware that 64-bit and 32-bit versions of your operating system exist, but you may have no idea what separates the two. The question: Should you use a 64-bit version of Windows, and why?' (2009, Lifehacker.com). See also Why Are Most Programs Still 32-bit on a 64-bit Version of Windows? (2017, HowToGeek), and How to Tell If You Have Windows 64-Bit or 32-Bit (2022, Lifewire).
Computer Literacy 101: Working with Windows INTERACTIVE - Detailed, step-by-step tutorials on Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 & 8.1, and a separate section on Windows 10. Suitable for those who have never used Windows before. (2018; by Jan Smith)
Operating Systems For Dummies™ UPDATED LINK! - How-tos on operating systems including Windows XP through Windows 10 (and a page on What's New in Windows 11), DOS, Linux, and UNIX, as well as Mac OS & Applications UPDATED LINK!. Use the drop-down menu to choose an operating system. From the publisher of the For Dummies™ series of books. (John Wiley & Sons Inc.)
Windows 7 How-Tos (How-To Geek) - Tips and tweaks for using the Windows 7 operating system. Covers Disabling Features & Annoyances, Networking & Sharing, Privacy & Security, Shortcuts & Hotkeys, and other Windows 7 Tips. See also Windows Help (Microsoft).
Windows 10 (How-To Geek) - Tips and tweaks for using the Windows 10 operating system (LifeSavvy Media). See also Windows Help (Microsoft). For a detailed step-by-step tutorial on Windows 10 for those who have never used Windows before, see Computer Literacy 101: Working with Windows 10 (by Jan Smith).
Windows 11 (How-To Geek) - Info and advice on installing and using the new Windows 11 operating system (LifeSavvy Media). See also Windows 11 Cheat Sheet (Tech Republic), Windows 11 System Requirements (Microsoft), and Windows 11 Help (Microsoft).
Windows Vista How-Tos (How-To Geek) - Tips and tweaks for using the Windows Vista operating system. Covers Desktop Customization, Managing Files and Folders, Network and Internet, Security, System Administration, Windows Aero Glass, Tips and Tweaks.
Getting Connected to the Internet
Broadband Internet for Low-Income Households: Affordable Connectivity Program - Describes government benefit programs that helps low-income households get the broadband internet service they need for work, school, healthcare and more. Also includes info on the Lifeline Free Smartphone Program.
Internet 101: Connecting to the Internet - This interactive tutorial explains what the different types of internet connections (dialup, DSL, and cable) are, how to choose an internet service provider (ISP), what hardware & software you'll need to connect, and how to set up your connection on a computer or mobile device (Goodwill Community Foundation). See also Getting Connected to Broadband and Broadband Speeds: What You Need to Know (2022, Federal Communications Commission).
WiFi at the South Plainfield Public Library - Our library offers wireless internet access (Wi-Fi) for your convenience. Bring your own Wi-Fi-ready laptop with you to the library, and use the internet while having access to all your own personal files and software at the same time! To protect yourself, your device, and your personal info when using wireless networks, see Wireless Security, below.
Emily Post's Digital Manners - Advice on correct manners when communicating electronically. Covers the use of cell phones, email, texting, videoconferencing and more. See also Netiquette (CyberSmile Foundation), Ten Commandments for Mobile Manners [Link opens a PDF] (Kim Komando, radio talk show host and syndicated columnist), and Cyberbullying.
Evaluating Online Information - See Evaluating Websites and related links.
Internet Basics - This introductory course explains what the internet is, how it is used, how to connect to the internet, and how to use web browsers & search engines. The same website also offers many additional tech tutorials (Goodwill Community Foundation).
Research Beyond Google - A guide to searching the 'invisible web' to find authoritative information sources on a variety of subjects. Last updated in 2018; expect broken links (Online Education Database; site includes advertisements).
E-Mail & Social Media
For more advice on protecting your privacy and security when using e-mail or social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), see Protecting Yourself & Your Family, below.
BCC: Blind Carbon Copies - Do you forward jokes, photos, or other email messages to your family, friends, and co-workers? BCC, or blind carbon copy, allows you to protect their privacy when you do. Unlike addresses in the To: field or the CC: (carbon copy) field, addresses in the BCC: field cannot be seen by other users. This page explains how, when, and why you should use BCC. (US-CERT, Department of Homeland Security)
E-Mail Basics Tutorial [NOTE: Because online platforms' rules & procedures change frequently, some specifics may have changed since these tutorials were created] - Online tutorials teach you the essentials of email, in addition to other popular ways to communicate online in today's world. (Goodwill Community Foundation)
Email Etiquette Dos & Don'ts - Tips to help you communicate politely and effectively by email (Emily Post). See Emily Post's Digital Manners, above, for more tips on how to communicate correctly with digital technology.
MailDrop - MailDrop is a free throwaway e-mail address. You can use it whenever you need to provide an email address on any website or app, but don't want your real email inbox flooded with ads or spam. MailDrop is free for anyone - no signup or password required.
Overcoming E-Mail Overload AUDIO - Practical tips to help you efficiently manage e-mail on the job; many of these tips will be helpful for management of your personal e-mail, too. (2005, NPR; includes both audio and text versions)
Social Media Tutorials (GCF Global Learning®) VIDEO [NOTE: Because online platforms' rules & procedures change frequently, some specifics may have changed since these tutorials were created] - 'Social media is the blending of technology and social interaction for the purpose of communication and co-creation in today's world. Knowing how to use social media is an essential 21st century skill that you can acquire with our new social media topics.' This site offers self-paced tutorials covering blogs, Facebook, Skype, Twitter, Linked In, Snapchat, Pinterest, and more (Goodwill Community Foundation).
Spam for Consumers - Advice on how to get fewer spam emails (2021, Federal Trade Commission et al.). See also Unwanted Emails, Texts, and Mail NEW! (2022, Federal Trade Commission), Why Am I Getting Spam From My Own Email Address? (2019, HowToGeek), Trend Micro spam malware threats, and Fact Checking & Fake News links.
Windows Live Mail Stuff - If you're using the Windows Live Mail email program (the Windows 7 successor to Outlook Express and Windows Mail), you may be frustrated by the lack of help provided for many important functions. This site offers some useful how-to tips, including an extensive list of keyboard shortcuts and instructions on how to customize the Quick Access Toolbar (personal site by Noel Burgess).
Cell Phones & Mobile Devices
For more advice on protecting your privacy and security when using smartphones and mobile devices, see Protecting Yourself & Your Family, below.
Android: 10 Practical Privacy Tips for Your Android Phone UPDATED! - Explains the settings you can adjust to minimize the amount of data that Google and other companies collect about you from your Android phone (2022, Wirecutter; New York Times). If you have a limited mobile data plan, How to Prevent Any App From Using Mobile Data on Android UPDATED! offers advice on how to turn off data and save money (2022, makeuseof.com). See also Best Android Antivirus Apps for 2022 (2022, PC Magazine).
Apps & Privacy - Explains how to avoid malicious apps, limit the information apps collect about you, and take additional steps to secure data on your mobile devices (2019, US-CERT, Department of Homeland Security). Mobile Devices: Stay Safe Online UPDATED! outlines the precautions you should take to safely connect to the internet using mobile devices (2022, National Cyber Security Alliance). Privacy on your Smartphone offers a detailed look at privacy issues related to cell phone and smartphone use (2017, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse; non-profit organization). See also Mobile Device Cybersecurity Checklist for Consumers [Link opens a PDF] (2021, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency), How To Protect Your Privacy on Apps (2021, Federal Trade Commission), Protect data on your mobile device (2021, Indiana University), and Turn off, turn on: Simple step can thwart top phone hackers (2021, Associated Press). For information about Mobile Banking & Financial apps, see Electronic Banking and related links. See also Android, Privacy, and Disposal of Electronic Devices links. Protect Your Phone From Hackers NEW! outlines steps you can take to protect your personal info in case your phone is lost or stolen (2022, Federal Trade Commission). See also Minimizing the Risks of a Lost Phone (2019, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse)
Caller ID Spoofing - See CONSUMER INFORMATION: Caller ID Spoofing.
Cell Phone Etiquette - See Emily Post's Digital Manners, above.
Cell Phone Safety: Cell Phones and Cancer Risk UPDATED! - Outlines current concerns and recent research on the possible health risks of cell phone use (2022, National Cancer Institute). See also Cell Phone Radiation UPDATED! articles & Are You Practicing Safer Cell Phone Use? VIDEO (2019 - 2022, Environmental Working Group). Other safety risks associated with mobile devices include Distracted Driving (2021, Federal Communications Commission) and Distracted Walking (2015, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons).
Consumer Guides: Telephone UPDATED! - Information and advice on billing & fees, accessibility issues, service availability, frauds & scams, and more, for cell phones and other mobile devices, as well as landline phones (2022, Federal Communications Commission).
Disposing of Your Phone - See Disposal of Electronic Devices, below.
Free smartphones for low income households - See Broadband Internet for Low-Income Households
Internet Phone - See Skype Tutorial and related links, below.
Kids and Mobile Phones - Advice for parents on helping children use cell phones safely (2011 - 2021, Federal Trade Commission). See also NetSmartz Smartphones (2019 - 2020, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Boys & Girls Clubs of America), Growing Wireless (below). For a review of health risks, see Cell Phone Safety links, above. For translations of text-messaging acronyms, see Texting and Chat Abbreviations, below. See also Your Kid's First Phone, and Kids & Tech: Tips for Parents in the Digital Age and related links, below.
Mobile Device Apps & Privacy - See Apps & Privacy, above.
Robocalls, phone scams & caller ID spoofing - See National Do Not Call Registry and related links.
Text Messaging UPDATED! - Shows how you can send short messages on your smartphone or or non-smartphone, with related information (2022, Wikihow). See also Recognize and Report Spam Text Messages UPDATED! (2022, Federal Trade Commission). Need to message someone but your phone isn't handy? See How to Send a Text From Your Computer UPDATED! (2022, Lifewire).
Wireless Consumer Resources (formerly Your Wireless Life) - Consumer advice on emergency preparedness, choosing a device or plan, stopping robocalls, protecting your privacy & data, and more; mouse over Consumer Resources in the menu bar to choose a topic. A sister site, Growing Wireless, offers parents tools & information that can help you teach your kids how to use wireless technology responsibly. (CTIA-The Wireless Association®; industry association)
Word Processing & Other Applications
AlternativeTo [CAUTION: Always scan downloads with a reliable anti-virus / anti-spyware program before opening them.] - Alternatives to common software, based on users recommendations. Gizmo's Freeware has reviews of selected freeware programs & apps, plus tech tips and other info (personal site by Ian 'Gizmo' Richards and a group of volunteer editors). SourceForge hosts a large collection of Open Source software for a wide range of applications (owned and operated by Slashdot Media, a Dice Holdings, Inc. company). See also Old Version, below.
CNET Software Downloads [CAUTION: Always scan downloads with a reliable anti-virus / anti-spyware program before opening them.] - One-stop source for software downloads (Windows, Mac, iOS and Android) and software reviews. Offers a huge number of free downloads; others are free to try, or for purchase only. Software categories include security, browsers, business, communications, desktop enhancements, developer tools, drivers, digital photo, educational, entertainment, games, graphic design, internet, home & hobby, MP3 & audio, networking, productivity, screensavers & wallpaper, utilities & operating systems, and video software (CNET.com, a CBS Interactive site).
Excel Tutorial - Step-by-step instruction in the basics of using Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet program. 'Although examples in this overview reference Microsoft® Excel 2007, fundamental concepts should be relatively easy to apply to other versions of Excel.' (2021; by Dr. Sharon Garrison, a University of Arizona professor). See also Easy Excel 2010 Tutorial (author unknown). For tutorials on all versions of Excel through 2016, see Microsoft Office Tutorials, below.
Microsoft eBooks (2016) [CAUTION: Always scan downloads with a reliable anti-virus / anti-spyware program before opening them.] - A large collection of free Microsoft eBooks for businesses, home users, web developers, and IT professionals on a wide variety of programs. Covers Windows 10, Windows Server, Office 2016, Azure, Outlook, and many others. See also Free Microsoft eBooks (2012), and More Free Microsoft eBooks and Resource Kits (2012). (Eric Ligman, Microsoft Director of Business & Sales Operations)
Microsoft Office Tutorials (GCF Learn Free ) VIDEO - Self-paced Microsoft Office programs (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access) tutorials. Includes Microsoft Office versions 2000 through Office 2019 and 365 (Goodwill Community Foundation). MS Office 365 Training Center VIDEO offers online instruction & tips for using for the latest Office apps, including Outlook, OneDrive, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and SharePoint (Microsoft). In Pictures has simple, easy-to-follow, illustration-based tutorials for Office versions 2007 through 2013 (no author name or credentials provided).
Old Version [CAUTION: Always scan downloads with a reliable anti-virus / anti-spyware program before opening them.] [CAUTION: Be aware that outdated versions of software are usually less secure than current versions.] - Are you still using an older computer that can't handle the latest versions of some popular software? Do you just prefer the older version of your favorite browser, media, or mail program? On this site you can download early versions of many Windows-based freeware and shareware programs such as Internet Explorer, AOL Instant Messenger, Acrobat Reader, Eudora, Winamp, WinZip, and RealPlayer. Old versions of some software programs are also available on Archive.org .
Open Office [CAUTION: Always scan downloads with a reliable anti-virus / anti-spyware program before opening them.] - Free downloadable software, including a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation manager, and drawing program. 'An Open Source, community-developed, multi-platform (Windows, Mac, etc.) office productivity suite.' LibreOffice is another free alternative multi-platform office suite. AbiWord is a free multi-platform word-processing program.
Zamzar Free Online File Conversion [CAUTION: Always scan e-mail attachments and downloads with a reliable anti-virus / anti-spyware program before opening them.] [Limit of 2 free conversions per day] - Allows users to transform computer files from their original file format to a different file format - for example, you can convert a file in DOC format to a PDF, or convert a PDF to HTML. The Online OCR Service extracts text from PDF or image files (JPG, JPEG, BMP, TIFF, GIF) and converts it into editable Word, Text, Excel, PDF, or HTML formats! OnlineOCR.net is free in 'Guest mode' (without registration), allowing you to convert 15 images per hour. To convert a PDF document into a .jpg image, try Soda PDF to JPG. Alternately, you can use the Snipping Tool included with Microsoft Windows versions 7 and later to capture a PDF or document page and save it as a jpg, gif, or png.
Other Technologies (audio, video, camera, etc.)
Cell Phones & Mobile Devices
Amazon Alexa/Echo Privacy - See Smart Speaker Privacy, below.
Consumer Reports: Electronics Buying Guides - The buying guides from Consumer Reports provide general advice on purchasing electronics, including computers, printers, smartphones, cell phones & services, digital cameras, camcorders, TVs and much more! Choose a topic, then click on 'Buying Guide'. [NOTE: Buying Guides are free to everyone, but online access to ratings and repair records for specific products is only available to paid subscribers, or for free via our EBSCOHost Masterfile Elite database (South Plainfield library card required).]
Digital Photography: Tips & Projects - Craft projects you can make with photos, with Top 10 Tips for Great Pictures and 10 Tips for Taking Great Phone Photos (Kodak). BigHugeLabs.com's Flickr Toys, Games & Utilities offers a large collection of free tools you can use to make calendars, posters, trading cards, wallpaper, 'lolcats' and lots of other fun stuff with your digital photos.
Electronics Recyling - Links to information on recycling electronic products.
Google Home/Assistant Privacy - See Smart Speaker Privacy, below.
Guide to Cables, Connectors and Ports - This handy illustrated guide shows many different kinds of computer, audio, & video connections and explains what each one is for. (2011, Hewlett-Packard).
Internet of Things - See Internet of Things (IoT), below.
Internet Phone - See Skype Tutorial and related links, below.
Podbay - A great site for podcast lovers. You can search or browse for podcasts, read descriptions & reviews for each podcast & each episode, visit the podcast's website, download or listen to individual episodes on your PC, iPhone or Android, and find links for each show on Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Overcast, and RSS feed. See also Podbean NEW!.
Preserve Your Digital Materials VIDEO - Basic advice on 'personal archiving': preserving your digital photos, audio & video, email, personal records, and websites (Library of Congress). To plan for the management of your digital files, photos, posts and other accounts after your death, see Online Life After Death.
Siri Privacy - See Smart Speaker Privacy, below.
Skype Tutorial VIDEO - Explains how to use the popular Skype VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service for voice & video calls, instant messaging, and more. Includes links to other free or affordable options for making VoIP and video calls (2016, Goodwill Community Foundation). VoIP Phone Service Fact Sheet explains VoIP technology, which allows you to make telephone calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular phone line (2019, Federal Communications Commission). NOTE: There are many other VoIP apps & providers besides Skype; some ISPs offer VoIP instead of traditional landline phone service. See VoIP Apps - Software for Making and Receiving VoIP Calls (2020, Lifewire; part of Dotdash.com) for additional advice & info, and some alternative programs; also search the app store for your device.
Smartphones - See Apps & Privacy and related links, above.
Smart Speakers (Alexa/Echo, Siri, Google Assistant) - See Smart Speaker Privacy, below.
Tech Etiquette - See Emily Post's Digital Manners and related links, above.
TV: Antennas and Digital Television - 'Ever since the transition to digital television, most consumers have had more choices in free over-the-air broadcasting. This guide provides information on TV antennas and tips for obtaining good quality reception of digital broadcasts' (2020, Federal Communications Commission). See also Smart TV, below.
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) Phone Service - See Skype Tutorial, above.
Zoom Support - Need to go on Zoom for a meeting or teleconference? This page can help you get started and solve problems that arise when using Zoom. GFC Global offers a free Zoom Tutorial and advice on dealing with Zoom fatigue. See also Zoom security issues: What's gone wrong and what's been fixed UPDATED! (2022, Tom's Guide; Future US, Inc.), Video Chat and Group Calls (GFC Global), and Guidance for Securing Video Conferencing (2020, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency).
Protecting Yourself & Your Family
To find out more about internet fraud, online privacy, identity theft, electronic banking, online shopping, and related topics, please see our CONSUMER INFORMATION: Buying Online and CONSUMER INFORMATION: Privacy, Identity Theft, & Junk Mail links.
To learn about the effects of media (books, TV, movies, internet, video games, etc.) on kids and teens, please see our PARENTING & FAMILY: Media & Entertainment links.
Online Privacy and Security (formerly OnGuard Online UPDATED! VIDEO - Practical tips to help you understand online privacy, protect your devices from hackers and threats, and avoid common online scams (Federal Trade Commission). The date of each article is provided at the bottom of the page, so you know how up-to-date the information is.
Stay Safe Online - Additional resources to help you protect yourself, your family, and your devices from malware, fraud, data loss, cyberbullying, and other threats, including Online Safety & Privacy Basics (National Cyber Security Alliance).
National Cyber Awareness System Tips & Alerts - Provides timely information about current security issues, vulnerabilities, & exploits, advice about common security issues for the general public, and more - including a few basic rules of thumb to protect yourself, as well as more specific recommendations about Protecting Against Ransomware, Protecting Against Malicious Code and other cyber security topics. You can subscribe to bulletins and alerts by email or feed (US-CERT, Department of Homeland Security). See also National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) Tip Sheets (Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Department of Homeland Security).
Stop. Think. Connect. (Foreign Language Resources) - Online safety tips in Spanish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian, Japanese, French, and Turkish, as well as English. (Anti-Phishing Working Group et al.)
Behavioral Advertising Opt-Out - See Cookies links, below.
Blind Carbon Copies - See BCC: Blind Carbon Copies, above.
Browser Fingerprinting - See Cookies & Online Tracking, below.
Businesses - See Cyber Security: Resources for Small and Midsize Businesses and related links.
Caller ID Spoofing - See CONSUMER INFORMATION: Caller ID Spoofing.
Chat, Text & Web Abbreviations - See Texting and Chat Abbreviations, below.
Computer Workstation Ergonomics - See Ergonomics, below.
Consumer Reports: Digital Security & Privacy VIDEO - Lots of information and advice on the latest security threats; covers scams, identity theft, malware, social networks, medical privacy, the 'Internet Of Things', and more. Some articles are only available to paid subscribers. (Consumer Reports)
Cookies & Online Tracking - 'A cookie is information saved by your web browser, the software program you use to visit the web. Cookies can be used by companies that collect, store and share bits of information about your online activities to track your behavior across sites.' This page offers a basic explanation of what the different types of cookies are, and some suggestions that can help you control them and protect your privacy (2021, Federal Trade Commission). See also Browser fingerprinting: what it is and how to protect yourself NEW! (2022, Tech Radar; part of Future US, Inc.), and What Is Browser Fingerprinting and How Does It Track You? NEW! (2022, Wired; part of Condé Nast), Browser settings to change ASAP in Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge, and Brave UPDATED! (2022, CNET.com, part of Red Ventures). Most modern browsers include privacy features, either built-in, or offered as extensions. Use the Cover Your Tracks tool to find out how well your browser is protecting you against non-consensual Web tracking (Electronic Frontier Foundation). For related info, see Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and related links, below.
Credit Reports - See Credit Reports links.
Cyberbullying: StopBullying.gov - 'Cyberbullying happens when kids bully each other through electronic technology.' This site explains why cyberbullying is different from traditional bullying, what you can do to prevent it, and how you can report it if it happens (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services). CyberSmile offers advice on various forms of digital abuse, including cyberbullying, online harassment, catfishing, cyber self-harm, doxing, gaming, and more (non-profit organization). See also Emily Post's Digital Manners, above.
Data Breaches: What to Do When You Receive a Data Breach Notice - 'Have you received a letter informing you that your personal information (such as Social Security numbers, account numbers, and driver's license numbers) may have gotten into the wrong hands?' This fact sheet explains what a data or security breach is, and offers advice on what you should do if you are notified that your personal information has been compromised. Includes specific information on breaches involving credit or debit cards, financial accounts, driver's license number or other government-issued ID, or Social Security number. Includes links to additional resources for businesses and for consumers. This website includes a searchable, frequently-updated chronological list of corporate and institutional data security breaches from 2005 to the present (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse; non-profit organization). To find out whether your email account has been compromised in a data breach, check Have i been pwned? (by Troy Hunt, a Microsoft Regional Director). See also Privacy, above, and Security, below.
Data Brokers NEW! - A series of articles explaining different types of data brokers and 'People Search' sites, how they collect your data, ways to stop or limit them, and more; at the bottom of each article is a 'Read Next' link to a related article (2021, makeuseof.com). See also Is a website that has outdated information about me allowed to charge me to take it down? (2019, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse), Privacy Rights Clearinghouse List of U.S. Data Brokers NEW! and Privacy links, below.
Deleting Online Accounts (social media, shopping, etc.) - See Just Delete Me, below.
Digital Legacy - See Online Life After Death for tips on how to plan for the management of your digital files, photos, posts and other accounts after your death.
Disposal of Electronic Devices - 'Computers, smartphones, and cameras allow you to keep a great deal of information at your fingertips, but when you dispose of, donate, or recycle a device you may inadvertently disclose sensitive information which could be exploited by cyber criminals.' This page suggests a variety of methods for permanently erasing data from your devices (2019, US-CERT, Department of Homeland Security). See also How To Remove Your Personal Information Before You Get Rid of Your Computer UPDATED! & How To Remove Your Personal Information Before You Get Rid of Your Phone NEW! (2022, Federal Trade Commission), How to Wipe a Computer Clean of Personal Data [covers Apple, Windows, and Chromebook] (2021, Consumer Reports), and How and Why to Destroy Old Flash Drives (2011, Campus Technology Magazine; 1105 Media Inc). See also Spring Cleaning Webfinder: Safeguard Your Personal Data.
E-Mail, Web, and Chat Room Slang and Acronyms - See Texting and Chat Abbreviations, below.
Ergonomics: How to Protect Yourself from Strain and Pain - Describes health and comfort factors to be considered in setting up your workstation (University of Michigan). See also Ergonomics: Computer Workstations eTool (2015, U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration).
Health App Privacy - 'Some apps use your sensitive information only to give you services. But others may use it for their own research, to target you with ads, or disclose - or even sell - your data to other companies. And, unlike your doctor, these apps may not be covered by health privacy laws like HIPAA.' This page offers tips to help you avoid the risks associated with health apps (2021, Federal Trade Commission).
Home Network Security - Home network security refers to the protection of a network that connects devices to each other and to the internet within a home. This page offers advice on securing home networks and systems (2020, US-CERT, Department of Homeland Security). See also Internet of Things (IoT) and Wireless Security, below.
Information Brokers - See Data Brokers, above.
Internet Crime Complaint Center - Use this site to file a complaints over any type of crime committed over the Internet, including credit card fraud, retail fraud, investment fraud, auction fraud, etc. Formerly Internet Fraud Complaint Center (FBI and National White Collar Crime Center). The FBI also offers a web page on scams and safety.
Internet of Things (IoT) [Link opens a PDF] - IoT refers to any home automation device, security system, appliance, vehicle, medical device, toy, or other item that sends and/or receives data automatically via the web. This infographic provides brief tips to help you secure IoT devices from cyber attacks (2014, National Cyber Security Alliance). 'Smart' Homes explains in greater detail how smart homes work, what to be aware of when introducing smart devices into your home, what steps you can take to protect your data and your privacy, and where to learn more (2020, Consumer Action; non-profit organization). Mozilla Foundation's Privacy Not Included guide helps you shop for safe, secure connected products such as smart speakers, fitness trackers, wireless headphones, and many more (2021). See also Security Tip: Internet of Things & Secure New Internet-Connected Devices (2019, US-CERT, Department of Homeland Security), Common Internet of Things Devices May Expose Consumers to Cyber Exploitation (2018, Internet Crime Complaint Center), Smart Speaker Privacy & Smart TVs, Wireless Security and Home Network Security.
Is This Website Safe? (Norton Safe Web) [CAUTION: This tool is should not be used as a substitute for a reliable anti-virus / anti-spyware program!] - Enter a website address in the box and get Norton's safety rating for that website (Symantec Corporation).
Just Delete Me - Many companies make it difficult to find out how to delete your account; JustDelete.me provides direct links to the account deletion pages for numerous websites & services including Amazon.com, Blogger, eBay, Facebook, Google, Instagram, iTunes, LinkedIn, Netflix, Pinterest, Twitter, WordPress.com, Yelp, YouTube, and dozens of others. The site also rates the difficulty of account deletion for each service as Easy, Medium, Hard, or Impossible - making it a useful place to check BEFORE you sign up for a new service, as well as when you are trying to delete an existing account. (2020, Background Checks.org)
Kids & Tech: Tips for Parents in the Digital Age - Advice on how your family can manage media use in positive and healthy way (2018, American Academy of Pediatrics). Protecting Kids Online UPDATED LINK! offer practical tips for parents on protecting kids online (2011 - 2022, Federal Trade Commission). NetSmartz VIDEO offers helpful net-safety resources for parents, kids, tweens and teens, as well as for educators and law enforcement officials; includes tip sheets, videos, blog, and more (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Boys & Girls Clubs of America). Common Sense Media offers reviews of Safer Social Media and Messaging Apps as well as Best Websites for different age groups. Safe, Secure, and Smart is a guide to choosing the best tech for pre-schoolers; covers apps, online video, and toys & connected devices (2020 - 2021, Fairplay, formerly Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood). You'll find more good advice for parents at Connect Safely (non-profit organization; by Larry Magid et al.), Cyberwise Blog, Keeping Children Safe Online NEW! (2021, US-CERT, Department of Homeland Security), and Family Online Safety Agreement For Ages 13 and Under & Family Online Safety Agreement For Teens (Family Online Safety Institute), Protect Your Child From Identity Theft (2021, Federal Trade Commission), Texting and Chat Abbreviations, below, and Kids and Mobile Phones, above. For additional resources, see our PARENTING: Media & Entertainment links and KidStuff Information for Parents.
Microsoft Windows Security Support - Tips and tools from Microsoft to help you protect your devices, yourself, and your family from hackers, viruses, fraud, and more (Microsoft). Apple device users, see Apple support NEW!, choose your device, find the device's User Guide under 'Resources,' then search 'security.' See also Apple Platform Security NEW!.
Netiquette - See Emily Post's Digital Manners, above.
Passwords - Explains the whys and hows of creating strong passwords & PINs to keep your accounts and private information secure (2019, US-CERT, Department of Homeland Security). See also 3 Simple Tricks for Remembering Strong Passwords NEW! (2022, PC Magazine), and Password Checklist (2021, Federal Trade Commission), Are you having trouble thinking up new passwords to meet increasingly complicated password configuration requirements? Norton offers an automated Password Generator; you can use it online, or install the extension/app on your browser or device.
Phishing Scams UPDATED! - Recommendations on how to avoid the fraud and identity theft that result from phishing and spoofing, which use emails, texts, and websites that look safe but are actually stealing your personal information (2022, Federal Trade Commission). See also What to Do Immediately After You Click a Phishing Link NEW! VIDEO (2022, Lifehacker; part of G/O Media).
Privacy: Check Your Privacy Settings UPDATED LINK! - This National Cyber Security Alliance page provides direct links to pages that explain how to update your privacy settings on popular devices and online services such as Amazon, eBay, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Apple, Google, MasterCard and many others. 30-Second Privacy Fixes: Simple Ways to Protect Your Data NEW! outlines how to quickly limit location tracking, smart speaker recordings, and other data collection (2022, Consumer Reports). Electronic Frontier Foundation offers Surveillance Self-Defense UPDATED LINK!, with detailed advice for safer online communications, as well as the free Privacy Badger Browser Extension. For more advice that can help you prevent spam and tracking, see How to hide your email from data collectors NEW! (2021, The Verge; part of Vox Media). See also Cookies & Online Tracking, Data Breaches, Data Brokers, Disposal of Electronic Devices, Health App Privacy Kids & Tech, Apps & Privacy, Security, Credit Reports, and Privacy, Identity Theft, & Junk Mail links.
Safe Computer Disposal - See Disposal of Electronic Devices, above.
Security: How To Recognize, Remove, and Avoid Malware NEW! - Advice on how to recognize, remove, and avoid malware (2021, Federal Trade Commission). Viruses, Malware, or Spyware: What's More Dangerous? explains different types of security risks (2021, PC Magazine). See also Online Privacy and Security, Stay Safe Online, and National Cyber Awareness System Tips & Alerts, above, and Wireless Connections, below. How to Avoid Scareware outlines how you can avoid being duped by scareware, which masquerades as real security protection and then tricks you into paying to clean up infections it pretends to detect (2021, PC Magazine). Trend Micro's Security Glossary defines dozens of terms specifically related to online security, such as ActiveX, boot sector virus, and Worm. Trend Micro also offers a Threat Encyclopedia with the latest info on specific types of malware (trojans, ransomware, etc.), spam, & vulnerabilities/security patch releases.
Security Breaches - See Data Breaches, above.
Smart Speaker Privacy UPDATED! - Do you have Amazon Alexa/Echo, Apple Siri, or Google Home/Assistant in your home? Amazon, Google, and Apple use customers' voice clips to train their AI voice systems, and employees listen to some recordings. This article explains how to to mute the microphone and delete recordings collected by Amazon, Apple, and Google (2022, Consumer Reports). See also Internet of Things (IoT), above.
Smartphones - See Apps & Privacy and related links, above.
Spam Scams & Hoaxes - If you receive a dubious email or online message, search this encyclopedia of common hoaxes before you do anything else. Exposes false virus warnings, health scares, 'free' product scams, stories of Nigerian dictators, and much more (Trend Micro, a company providing technology security products & services). See also Fraud Schemes.
Spoofing - See CONSUMER INFORMATION: Caller ID Spoofing.
TV: How to Turn Off Smart TV Snooping Features UPDATED! - Advice on how to how to limit the amount of personal data being collected by your TV (2022, Consumer Reports). See also Internet of Things (IoT), and TV: Antennas and Digital Television.
Texting and Chat Abbreviations: Net Lingo & Webopedia - Extensive lists of definitions for acronyms and abbreviations commonly used on the web and in chat & text messaging. Computer Hope offers an Online Conversion Tool for Leetspeak, a code which replaces letters for numbers or other characters; includes a conversion tool (last updated in 2019). Parents who want to know more about their kids' use of cell phones and text-messaging, see should read Kids and Mobile Phones links, above. To learn how text messaging works, see Text Messaging on your Cell Phone, above.
Wireless Connections and Bluetooth Security Tips - Summarizes the risks associated with using unsecured Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth connections to access the internet, with advice on keeping yourself safe (2021, Federal Communications Commission). Securing Wireless Networks suggests precautions you can take to help minimize risks (2020, US-CERT, Department of Homeland Security). Wireless Security: Tips for Using Public Wi-Fi Networks offers advice on protecting your personal information when using a public Wi-Fi (2021, Federal Trade Commission). See also How To Secure Your Home Wi-Fi Network (2021, Federal Trade Commission et al.), Home Network Security, Security, and Wi-Fi, above.
Workstation Ergonomics - See Ergonomics, above.