National Parks are wonderful, except when they are not—just like when you are visiting all sorts of websites online. In both cases, staying safe and ensuring your security, should be the top priority. Here are some tips to keep you safe in both environments:
“Go” Before You Go
Your mother told you, so we do not mind reinforcing it! Public bathrooms can be dens of bacteria and yuck, especially in National Parks with so many visitors. It is not easy for the Park Service to keep them clean. Try to avoid them at all cost. Likewise, avoid using public computers and public Wi-Fi whenever possible—each increase your odds of infection.
Lock Your Doors
Surely all the other visitors in the parking lot are nice people on vacation enjoying the park just like you, NOT! So be careful—lock your car doors when you leave it and secure your valuables wherever you go. The same is true when on any technology device or website, be sure you use strong passwords and change them frequently!
Stay on the Trail
While “venturing off” may seem enticing while hiking through some beautiful landscape, it is not without risk. So too when online, be careful and avoid clicking on some “bait” that might take you to a risky place. Connect securely over https (not http). Note that the “s” stands for “secure.”
Leave Wildlife Alone
There is a reason they are called wildlife. Leave them alone. Internet wildlife can be just as frightening when it is near. So, stay away from it all. Use a web filtering firewall and employ real time URL checking to provide a defense
A National Park visit almost always means you are outside, so protect yourself with sunscreen to reduce exposure to the negative effects of the sun. And anytime you are working on a PC, especially when online, ensure that you have the latest protection which includes installing the latest updates for your PC and using an updated anti-virus 100% of the time.
The best advice in any park setting is to leave natural objects alone. In fact, everything in a National Park is federally protected and should remain in the park. Likewise, when online, be careful where you click and practice “click economy.” Careless clicking can lead you to touch the online version of poison ivy…or far worse!
Keep Up Your Guard
Always be cautious in our park system; you really do not know the area very well nor do you know the people around you, so keep up your guard. Take all preventative measures when online as well, such as using anti-virus software, employing a firewall, and being careful with whom you share anything.
Just as leaving food debris around a campsite is an invitation to a visit from hungry wildlife, so too is not cleaning your cache on any computer or device. All browsers on any device typically keep track of where you have been and what you have done. It is easy for outsiders to view that cache, so set your preferences not to record any of your online activity.
Some might fear a bear attack in a national park. The same individual might also fear a direct strike into their computer from an outside attacker. But the truth is that in both National Parks and in surfing the web, most injuries that occur are self-inflicted often due to lack of preparedness or awareness. Follow these tips and stay safe! The words of Smokey Bear pertain to both staying safe in the woods AND online, “Remember…only YOU can prevent forest fires” (or online threats).
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First published in our August 2018 IT Radix Resource newsletter