Cyber Safety
Individuals and Families > Consumers > Cyber Safety > Cybersecurity


From computers to mobile devices, we are online more often and in more places than ever before. That’s why cybersecurity is so important.

To help consumers stay safe online, the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section developed the Cybersecurity Help, Information, and Protection Program (CHIPP). Use the CHIPP resources to help secure your devices, keep your personal information private, and avoid cyber scams.

What is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is protecting computers and mobile devices – such as smartphones and tablets – from unauthorized access, attacks, and harm. Simply put, it’s how we keep our devices clean. 

Cybersecurity has become a popular topic—and for good reason. Businesses and consumers have increased their reliance on technology, making it crucial for businesses and individuals to safeguard personal information. Businesses have a reputation to protect, and that reputation may suffer if information is compromised. For consumers, not only can data breaches lead to fraud on your accounts, cybercriminals can potentially use the information to commit identity theft.

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Threats to Cybersecurity

  • Malware
    One of the biggest threats to cybersecurity is malware, which damages or disables computers. You can unknowingly download malware by clicking on suspicious links and pop-up advertisements, or by opening suspicious email attachments. There are many types of malware, including viruses, adware, ransomware, and spyware. This malware could infect your computer; spread to other computers; show you unwanted advertisements; lock up your device; and even capture personal information stored on your device.
  • Phishing
    Phishing occurs when a scam artist sends an email pretending to be a trusted organization. For example, a scammer might pretend to be your bank, using the bank’s logo. When reading emails, be sure to look for red flags. Messages may contain grammar errors or spelling mistakes. Additionally, the web address may be similar to a legitimate company, organization, or government agency, but not exact. Scammers often create imposter websites to trick you into revealing personal information to untrusted sources.
  • Remote Access
    Remote access occurs when you allow someone in another location to gain access into your computer. Some scammers pose as technical support companies and try to convince you to let them “fix” your computer by accessing it remotely through special software and/or websites.  However, once they gain access, the scammer may install malware or hold the computer “hostage” until you send money to regain control.
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Security Tips for Consumers

Today’s technology creates more opportunity for your personal information to end up in the wrong hands, which can lead to fraud and even identity theft. To guard against this, use the following tips to help protect your information in cyberspace.

How to Protect Your Computer:
  • Beware of malware and “phishing” schemes. Do not click on links or open attachments that appear suspicious. Delete these communications, even if they appear to be from a friend or trusted source since hackers may gain access to those sources’ email and social media accounts.
  • Never allow remote access to strangers. Know that technical support companies will not call you if there is a problem with your device. 
  • Consider increasing the security and privacy settings of your operating system and your Internet browser. Adjust your browser to at least the “medium” security setting.
  • Install a “pop-up blocker” to help avoid seeing and clicking on pop-up advertisements and messages. If you do view a suspicious pop-up advertisement, only select the “X” box to close it. (Don’t click on links within the pop-up ad.)
  • Install and maintain an anti-virus and an anti-spyware program. If available, opt to have the programs update automatically. Having the latest and most up-to-date versions will help maximize the programs’ effectiveness against new viruses.
  • Install updates to programs, such as the computer’s operating system and the Internet browser. This will ensure that any security protections are loaded. Again, opt to have these programs update automatically, if available.
How to Use Free, Public Wi-Fi Safely:
  • Before connecting to public Wi-Fi, ask the business or facility the name of the official Wi-Fi network. Avoid other networks, because they may be hosted by cybercriminals.
  • Assume everyone can see what you’re doing when connected to public Wi-Fi. Do not provide personal information or type in passwords when on an unsecured public Wi-Fi network.
How to Secure Your Home Network:
  • Set and use a password on your home network’s wireless router.
  • Use a firewall to protect what information comes in and goes out of your home network.
  • Enable encryption, which scrambles data into an unreadable format.
What to Consider Anytime You’re Connected:
  • Establish a complex, unique password for each online account you access. Do not use easy-to-guess passwords, such as your birthdate or name. Consider using a unique combination of upper and lower case letters and random numbers. Include special characters such as an asterisk (*) or ampersand (&).
  • Use secure websites whenever you need to type personal information or conduct financial transactions. While every website begins with an “http” prefix, look for websites that use “https” and/or a lock symbol to help ensure a website has security features.
Most Internet browsers have a private browsing option. Consider using this feature if you are concerned about your privacy and security.

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Mobile Devices

Many consumers use portable devices to connect to the Internet. Because these devices often contain a lot of personal information, treat them the same as a home computer or laptop. This is especially important since these devices could be easily lost or stolen, given their portability.

Use the following tips to secure mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets:
  • Set and use the locking feature. This will help keep your information safe in the event someone gains physical access to your device.
  • Turn off Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and any “geolocation” or “geotagging” features whenever you are not using them. Geotagging refers to apps or programs that display your location when you, for example, take a photo. This feature is similar to how a vehicle’s GPS or navigation system can determine your location.
  • Review social network settings on each device used. Some settings may not carry over from the same social network’s desktop or laptop programs.
  • Only use official app stores to download applications. Downloading free apps from unknown sources may lead to malware and put personal information at risk.
  • Before downloading an app, be sure you are comfortable with the “permissions” it may require you to provide. Know how your information will be accessed and who it will be shared with.
  • Delete apps you no longer use.
  • Download a “locator” app from your device’s manufacturer. This app may be able to trace a device in the event it is lost or stolen. Some apps include features to remotely lock a device and/or wipe out all the information on the device.
  • Only recycle or dispose of a mobile device once the hard drive is wiped clean. If needed, take the device to a professional to be certain all information is deleted prior to recycling, selling, or disposing of the device.
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Cybersecurity Resources

Based on the grant-funded CHIPP initiative, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has created public awareness posters for schools, libraries and public transit vehicles to remind Ohioans about the importance of staying safe in cyberspace through a series of practical tips.

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Additional Resources

You may wish to consult the customer support departments of your Internet Service Provider as well as the manufacturer of your computer, mobile device, operating system, Internet browser and/or router equipment. These companies may provide additional tips along with general and specific information related to protecting your devices.

Here are some additional resources you may turn to for tips and help:

Request a Presentation

Visit our consumer presentations page to request a speaker on cybersecurity or other consumer topics.

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